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IMG_7522BY JEFF FALK

ALLENTOWN – Penetration time. Seven-on-seven overtime. Penalty strokes.

From the lesser-of-a-few-evils department comes this: There is no good way to decide a stalemated championship field hockey contest. But perhaps something would be better than nothing at all.

On Saturday afternoon at the Whitehall-Coplay school district’s Zephyr Sports Complex, during the PIAA Class AAA championship game, the Palmyra field hockey team was denied closure to and finality for its splendid 2014 campaign. The Cougars and foe Penn Manor were declared co-state champions, when the two fought tooth-and-nail through 90 minutes of intense and compelling action, and to a one-all draw.

IMG_7233For years, the PIAA has flip-flopped back and forth on its decision on how to decide state championship field hockey games. Currently, the governing body of Pennsylvania scholastic sports says that in the event two teams end regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods tied, the combatants shall share the state championship – a ruling that not everyone was aware of at the start of yesterday’s game.

Following the conclusion of the hostilities, everything originating from the Palmyra camp was politically correct and no one dared suggest that losing a state championship would be better than sharing one. But body language and the windows to souls told a different story.

What one was left to wonder was the cause of the Cougars’ displeasure- whether they thought they deserved to prevail because of their effort on the field, or if they believed they would eventually triumph through any form of anticipated tiebreaker. Or if the Palmyra players just needed some time to fully comprehend the breadth and depth of what they had accomplished this fall.

IMG_7373Either way, the Cougars were left not knowing exactly how to feel.

The result made District Three runner-up Palmyra 23-2-1 and District Three third-place finisher Penn Manor 24-3-1. The Cougars, who had defeated the Comets 1-0 in Palmyra on September 20, are now 1-1-1 all time in state championship games.

“We have to process this a little bit,” said Palmyra’s ‘head coach and ‘voice of reason’ Kristi Costello. “We’re proud of our effort. It is weird to end like this, but we could’ve ended it on the field. But at the end of the day, we have a gold medal around our necks.

“I think we would like to do strokes,” continued Costello. “But that’s not my decision to make.”

“I did not know,” said Palmyra senior star Katie Dembrowski, when asked if she was aware of the co-champion rule. “It still means a lot to us. We’re ready to enjoy the night. I thought we had a lot of scoring opportunities and just didn’t capitalize. We didn’t lose.”

IMG_7493With slick stick skills and superior conditioning, Palmyra carried the play during most of the two 15-minute, seven-on-seven overtime periods. The Cougars generated at least four dangerous scoring chances in the extra sessions, but each time Comet net minder Allison Schaefer was up to the task.

Midway through the first overtime, Cougar Erin Huffman’s potent reverse drive was turned aside by Schaefer. Then two minutes later, a blistering blast off Palmyra’s Kiley Gallagher’s stick was kicked away.

In the second extra session, an unmarked Huffman fanned on a one-timer set up by Gallagher from the baseline. Finally, with ten minutes remaining in that period, Gallagher, who had been sent ahead on a breakaway by K. Dembrowski, had her intended cross to Huffman intercepted by Schaefer.

IMG_7357“It’s kind of news to me,” said Costello of the co-champion rule. “But we didn’t lose. We didn’t end our season with a loss. We’re very proud of the kind of season we had.

“I think they’ll (her players) be excited,” added Costello. “They just have to take it in. They’re fierce competitors. I think there’s a little bit of frustration because they wanted to win it on the field.”

“I think they (the Comets) brought their best game,” said Katie D., “and we brought our best game. That’s why the score ended up the way it did.”

After a scoreless first half, Palmyra took a 1-0 lead, with 12:34 left in regulation. The goal originated from a corner insertion to K. Dembrowski at the top of the circle.

K. Dembrowski deftly slid a pass to her left to Gallagher. Gallagher took one touch, then fired. Though she didn’t get all of it, Gallagher’s shot was well-placed, and eluded Schaefer inside the far post.

IMG_7442“They don’t have players of the year in the state,” said Costello of Katie D. “But I’m sure she’ll be named all-state. She was one of the co-players of the year in our division (Keystone in the Mid-Penn Conference). But she’s recognized as one of the top players in the country.

“In any given year, Class AA and AAA have a lot of parity,” continued Costello. “We’ve played a pretty strong Class AAA schedule the last few years. To get here, you’ve got to have a little talent, and you’ve got to have a little luck.”

“We were just happy to beat Elizabethtown,” said Katie D of a last-second, playoff-opening win in districts, “and ended up here. It’s a huge accomplishment for us. We’re happy.”

IMG_7263Penn Manor knotted the score at one with 4:20 remaining in regulation, off a corner.

Comet Cassie Kline accepted teammate Emily Robb’s insertion and rifled a blast that got behind Cougar goalie Cheyenne Sprecher. K. Dembrowski was backing up Sprecher on the play and got a piece of the shot, but not enough to prevent it from going into the cage.

“It was a great corner stroke,” said Costello of Kline’s bomb. “It was a straight shot. They’re (the Comets) so effective on corners. They’re very fast and very threatening.”

The first half amounted to little more than a feeling-out period for both sides. Most of the action was confined to the midfield.

IMG_7343“We have six staff members,” said Costello of her coaching staff. “They’re (her players) used to any of them, and my dad (Kent Harshman) is certainly no stranger to them either. With me being pregnant, they (her coaches) were prepared to step in at any time. It was nice knowing my staff could step in for me. Everybody has a great role. In different times, they stepped up in different situations.”

On the strength of its play in overtime, Palmyra posted an 8-6 advantage in shots on goal. Penn Manor did not manage a shot in ‘bonus hockey’ and found itself on the wrong end of a 7-6 discrepancy in penalty corners.

“That really sank in as we were preparing for this state championship game,” said Costello of a day last month when she was involved in an automobile accident and the Cougars opened district play with an overtime win over Elizabethtown. “It was a rough start to the district tournament. I was just grateful to see this.”

    IMG_7307 Palmyra Field Hockey

      Final Scoring Stats

 

Goals

Assists

Points

Erin Huffman

29

7

65

Katie Dembrowski

17

17

51

Kiley Gallagher

17

5

39

Jess Fuschetti

14

1

29

Jess Dembrowski

3

21

27

Lexy Smith

8

1

17

Kylie Bomgardner

6

2

14

Amanda Fuschetti

2

3

7

Gabby Coricelli

2

3

7

Carissa Smith

1

3

5

Kristen Robinson

1

2

4

Carli Herman

1

1

3

Katelyn Mark

1

2

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            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

IMG_7392Pa State AA Champions: 2005

Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014

Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007

 

Palmyra Field Hockey

 2014 Results

DATE OPPONENT RESULT
08/29
@Hempfield
W 5-1
09/05 *
Middletown
W 10-0
09/06
Central Dauphin
W 6-0
09/09 *
@Hershey
W 2-0
09/11 *
@Red Land
W 5-0
09/15 *
Mechanicsburg
W 6-0
09/17 *
Lower Dauphin
L 2-3
09/18 *
@Susquehanna Twp.
W 2-0
09/20
Fleetwood
W 8-0
09/20
@Penn Manor
W 1-0
09/22
Lampeter-Strasburg
W 8-0
09/25 *
@Middletown
W 10-1
09/27
@Manheim Central
W 2-0
09/29 *
Hershey
W 1-0
10/01 *
Red Land
W 9-0
10/02 *
@Mechanicsburg
W 4-0
10/07 *
@Lower Dauphin
W 1-0
10/09 *
Susquehanna Twp.
W 1-0
10/21 #
Elizabethtown
W 2-1
10/25 #
Cedar Cliff
W 3-0
10/28 #
Cumberland Valley
W 2-1
11/01 #
@Lower Dauphin
L 0-1
11/04 #
Mifflin County
W 3-1
11/08 #
Cumberland Valley
W 3-0
11/11 #
@Emmaus
W 4-0
11/15 #
@Penn Manor
T 1-1

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