BY JEFF FALK
LEWISBERRY – They’re good. They’re getting better. And just think what they’ll be like when they get to where they want to be.
It’s a great time to be a Palmyra Cougar.
On a tranquill Thursday after-school at Red Land High School, Palmyra continued to foster field hockey improvement during a 5-0 whitewashing of the home-standing Patriots. Following a somewhat slow start, on their only game on grass this season, the Cougars gained control of the contest’s outcome with a pair of goals eight minutes apart late in the first half.
Prolific senior Lauren Wadas registered a hat trick for Palmyra, while freshman Avery Russell tallied a pair of markers. Three of the Cougars’ five goals resulted from corner plays.
With the outcome, Palmyra improved to 11-3 overall and 5-3 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. All three of the Cougars’ losses this season have come at the hands of mighty rivals Lower Dauphin and Hershey.
Red Land slipped to 3-8 on the fall and 1-7 in the Keystone Division. Back on September 18 at In The Net Sports Complex, Palmyra had shaded the Patriots by an 8-1 count.
During the off season, Palmyra lost one starting field player from a team that reached the PIAA Class AA championship game. In the latest District Three Class AA power rankings, the Cougars were situated fourth.
“I’m going to put it this way, ‘We’re not upset with where we are and how we’ve played,'” said Palmyra head coach Kent Harshman.”The games we’ve lost, the effort was there. The kids played hard. When your kids play hard, that’s all you can ask. You’re disappointed with the result, not the kids’ effort. That’s an important difference.
“There’s no better way to go into a postseason than by playing the level of competition we have,” continued Harshman. “We’re going to be happy with our (district) seeding. You grow more as a team, and the kids grow more as individuals, when you’re playing a tough schedule. We take pride in that.”
“Every game is important to us,” said Wadas. “We want to grow every day. I think we’ve grown a lot since the beginning of the season. We’re really close. We really are a family.”
For whatever reason, the Cougars were a bit sluggish at the beginning.
But Wadas got the visitors on the board 19:57 into the match, after accepting a corner insert from Mia Julien. Wadas’ drive from the top of the circle was true, just inside the right post.
Then 2:08 before intermission, Wadas battled hard for posession of a loose ball deep in the Red Land zone. Once she gained, it didn’t take long for her to unleash a hard reverse shot to the long side.
“It’s always a mess when you’re on grass one time a year,” said Harshman of the playing surface. “You try to get the job done and get out of it. They (the Patriots) play on it every day, and we don’t. I thought we did much better in the second half.
“The bounces on grass are totally unpredictable,” continued Harshman. “You have no idea. Our kids always bring cleats for this game and we prepared that way. You play a different game. We adjusted.”
“For me at least, it’s all my teammates,” said Wadas. “They set me up for everything I get.”
With momentum squarely at its back, Palmyra picked up the pace to begin the second half. A mere 6:24 into the stanza, Russell potted the Cougars’ third goal, from a rebound, off a corner.
Six minutes later, Wadas generated a semi-break with a long pass to Olivia Kirkpatrick, streaking down the right side of the field. Kirkpatrick whipped a precise cross across the Patriots’ goal mouth to Russell, who simply re-directed it home to make it 4-0.
“I made an adjustment on how we were going to lineup with corners,” said Harshman. “It was a move around the circle to get closer to the insert. It was real simple, but it made the conrers go better. We got good looks.
“In one regard, it was just another game,” Harshman added. “But you’ve got to get through it. We did that, and now we move on. We have four more games in the regular season, and all four are at home.”
“It’s tough playing on this surface,” said Wadas. “But I thought it went pretty well. It’s been a little tough since the loss to Lower Dauphin.
“I thought we did get off to a slow start, but we made some adjustments,” added Wadas. “It’s (the grass) a lot slower. There’s a lot of bumps, so it’ll (the ball) take weird bounces.”
With 3:57 to go, Wadas closed out the scoring and her hat trick with a blast inside the left post. That was after receiving another corner insert from Julien.
“Do I think we played as well the last two games as we did against Lower Dauphin? No, I don’t,” said Harshman. “It’s hard to keep that level of intensity. When you get to the postseason, it’s a different approach. Our kids always rise to that ocassion, and I expect that to happen this year.
“We can not win the division, so we can not win the Mid-Penn Conference,” added Harshman. “After the Lower Dauphin game, we talked about continuing to get better. We’re going to push forward and put our best foot forward for the postseason.”
When everything had been tabulated, Palmyra had out shot Red Land 16-2. The Cougars also owned a 12-3 advantage in penalty corners.
Starting Cougar goalie Katie Knol and reliever Jess St. Clair shared the shutout.
“Our goals are the same all the time,” said Wadas. “We’re looking for a district championship and a state championship. It’s always on our minds. We’re looking to get it done.”
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|2019-09-11||A||vs||Mechanicsburg Area Senior(3)||W||10-1|
|2019-09-21||H||vs||State College Area(3)||W||9-0|
|2019-09-30||H||vs||Mechanicsburg Area Senior(3)||0-0|
|2019-10-02||H||vs||Berks Catholic School(3)||0-0|
PIAA District Three
Class AA Power Rankings
|2||East Pennsboro Area||8-||1-||0||0.740887||0.880952||0.569697||7.4||112.8||1.0||85.2|
|6||Berks Catholic School||10-||1-||0||0.714126||0.893617||0.494748||8.4||94.2||1.0||96.2|
|13||Mechanicsburg Area Senior||7-||5-||0||0.556006||0.607143||0.493506||6.8||98.8||4.4||101.4|
|21||West York Area||5-||5-||2||0.459537||0.459016||0.460172||5.6||85.5||6.6||100.3|
|34||Spring Grove Area||0-||10-||1||0.226885||0.049020||0.444276||0.5||87.7||9.7||109.7|