BY JEFF FALK
MILLERSVILLE – In many ways, the shoe has been on the other foot for the Palmyra field hockey team this season. But the Cougars have always managed to put that best foot forward.
On a cool Wednesday night at Penn Manor High School’s Comet Field, another strong effort by Palmyra netted it a 3-2 triumph over Warwick, in the opening round of the 2017 District Three Class AAA tournament. With three distinctly different kinds of goals from three different players, the Cougars enjoyed three different leads, as senior Lexie Smith provided the game-winner with seven minutes remaining.
It hasn’t been a typical season for a Palmyra program which has been to the last three PIAA Class AAA championship games. But for the eighth-seeded and now 13-5-1 Cougars, it was their 26th straight District Three postseason appearance.
Warwick, the ninth-seed in the tournament, concluded its campaign at 12-8.
The Cougars will face a tough task in the next round, when they meet undefeated and top-seeded Penn Manor, on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Hempfield. Palmyra and Penn Manor shared the 2014 PIAA Class AAA state championship when the two sides played to one-all draw in the title tilt.
“We’ve done the best we can, especially against really good teams,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello. “We beat some really good teams. But there were a couple that got away from us. We’ve never doubted their (her player’) effort. These are good kids. I don’t have any issues with them off the field.
“We’ve taken a couple of steps forward, and taken a step back,” continued Costello. “There’s been some growth. Sometimes as a senior, it becomes clear when that end is near. We want our players to be able to look our seniors in the face and know they’ve given their best effort. If we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out fighting.”
While Smith was credited with it, teammate Gabby Corricelli may have played just as important role in the game-winner.
From the right portion of the circle, Smith lofted a soft shot on goal. Corricelli didn’t get a piece of the shot, but she distracted Warwick goalie Caite Brubaker enough to get it through her pads.
Warwick had knotted the score at two, 11 minutes earlier, on Katie Pyles’ second-chance goal – her second of the contest.
“She intercepted the ball and carried it in,” said Costello of Smith. “It was kind of a blooper. She didn’t hit it that hard. She and Kristen Robinson have really stepped up as our captains. It’s awesome to see them take on those roles.
“At this point,” added Costello, “I think we’re just fighting to live another day.”
Pyles tied the game at one 3:40 into the second half, when she tapped in a long ball into the circle. It took the Cougars exactly 15 seconds to respond.
On the ensuing restart, Cougar Mia Julian rushed the ball into the circle and located Corricelli. Going right, Corricelli stuck with her initial effort and banged her second attempt into the cage.
“It was an answer to their goal,” said Costello. “I thought it was just a great team effort. We’ve really been working hard the last two weeks to prepare for districts. I thought we were passing the ball really well. This team is fighting. They might not have the talent we’ve had in the past, but they’re close.
“Our program doesn’t change,” continued Costello. “We have players stepping into roles they didn’t have before. They respect Warwick. They showed up to play, and if you do that you have a great chance to win.”
The marking in the first half was much tighter. But Palmyra grabbed a 1-0 edge, courtesy of a penalty stroke, 13:52 before the break.
It was junior Nicole Shank who made no mistakes for the Cougars, beating Brubaker with a high shot to her stick side.
“They had incredible speed,” said Costello of the Warriors. “That’s where the breakdowns occurred. They were just some bad match-ups. We were bigger, but they were faster. I thought Ava (goal-keeper, Kristich) had some really nice saves.”
The final stat sheet saw Palmyra out shoot Warwick 12-10. But the Warriors enjoyed an 8-3 margin in penalty corners.
“They have a great team,” said Costello of the impending battle with Penn Manor. “They almost have everybody back. They’re very fast. We’ll do the best we can to prepare.”
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|4:00 PM||W 7-0|
Owen J. Roberts
|3:30 PM||W 2-0|
|4:00 PM||W 7-0|
|10:00 AM||W 5-1|
|7:00 PM||L 2-3|
|4:00 PM||W 3-1|
|11:00 AM||L 1-2|
|4:00 PM||L 0-1|
|4:00 PM||W 6-1|
|9:00 AM||W 5-0|
|2:00 PM||W 3-2|
|4:15 PM||W 4-1|
|7:00 PM||L 2-4|
|9:00 AM||W 3-1|
|4:00 PM||W 5-0|
|7:30 PM||T 1-1|
|7:00 PM||L 3-4|
|5:30 PM||W 8-0|
|7:00 PM||Comet Field, Millersville|
PIAA District Three
Class AAA Power Rankings
|20||J P McCaskey||3-||15-||0||0.349474||0.187500||0.547443||3.0||177.7||13.0||146.9|
|21||Central Dauphin East||4-||14-||0||0.316440||0.217391||0.437500||4.0||144.2||14.4||185.4|
|24||York Country Day School||1-||6-||0||0.206004||0.114286||0.318103||0.8||36.9||6.2||79.1|
Palmyra Field Hockey
Championship History Since 1998
Capital Division Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2001 – 2009
Keystone Division CO-Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2013, 2014
Mid-Penn Conference Champions: 2009
District III AA Champions: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013
District III AAA Champions: 2015, 2016
1984 – ???
1991 – Ann Gruber
2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 – Wendy Reichenbach
2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 – Kristi Harshman-Costello
Pa State AA Champions: 2005
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007
Pa State AAA Runner-Up 2015
PA State AAA Runner-Up 2016