BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – This current version of the Palmyra field hockey program is a well-rounded team. That’s because the Cougars have really been working on their ‘corners’.
On Tuesday afternoon on the turf at In The Net sports complex, Palmyra’s corner play propelled it to an 8-0 ambushing of Red Land’s Patriots. The Cougars earned 14 corners and scored goals off five of them.
In racing out to a 5-0 halftime advantage, Palmyra exploded for four goals in the final 13:26 of the first half. Sophomore Katie Dembrowski netted a hat trick for the winners, while Megan Soucy added a single tally and a pair of assists.
In all, six different players players found the back of the cage for Palmyra, which improved to 10-1 on the season and 6-1 in the Keystone Division. The Cougars are currently chasing the only team which has beaten them this season, division-leading Lower Dauphin.
With the loss, Red Land plummeted to 1-10 on the campaign and 1-6 in the division.
“The things that stood out to me were just the corners and capitalizing on the straight shots from the top of the circle,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Harshman-Costello. “We’ve been earning a lot of corners. We’ve been doing a good job of getting the ball in the right hands. But today we were finishing.
“We’ve been really working on inserting corners with Megan Soucy,” Harshman-Costello continued. “She and Amber Bailey have really improved at that. It’s huge. If you don’t have good inserts your corner is a flop. And she actually got a goal off a corner, which is good because she’s a defender.”
This time, Soucy found Dembrowski at the top of the circle off a corner and Dembrowski unleashed a bomb that beat the Patriot keeper to the left post.
“Actually, I thought our first ten minutes were a little slow,” said Harshman-Costello. “We re-grouped in a timeout, and we had really good ball movement and were working our short-passing game. We capitalized on our corners, which is something that we’ve been working on, so that’s good. Katie Dembrowski on straight strikes, finding the back of the cage, that will give her confidence.
“Red Land would probably say they’re in a rebuilding year,” Harshman-Costello added. “But you never think you’ve got it won. I felt comfortable at halftime, and it was great to substitute in the second half. But we were still playing Palmyra hockey.”
A three-goal flurry in the final 10:54 of the half put Harshman-Costello and her Cougars in their comfort zone. Palmyra’s Erin Hoffman followed up a teammate’s blast, stayed with it and shuffled her own rebound inside the right post for a 3-0 advantage.
Dembrowski picked up her second goal by working a give-and-go with Megan Miller at the top of the circle, before ripping another drive inside the left post. And then 28 seconds before the intermission, Miller went left, then drilled a nifty reverse hit into the right corner of the Red Land goal.
“I just really enjoy this team,” said Harshman-Costello. “I’m having fun coaching them and we’re a close-knit group. It’s really important how one person steps up each game. No one cares who gets the credit. I’m excited to see how far we can go. We’re taking things from games and working on them in practice.
“Sure, absolutely (we want to win the Keystone Division championship),” Harshman-Costello continued. “And it prepares us. We’re an (Class) AA team playing in a very tough division. We’re happy about playing really tough competition. They say that you’re never as good as you look when you win and that you’re never as bad as you look when you lose. We can learn a lot from a loss.”
Dembrowski completed her hat trick 9:26 into the second half – stop here if you’ve heard this one before – off a corner play from Soucy. Palmyra also scored on a penalty stroke from Haley Bova and a well-placed shot by Carli Herman.
“Actually, I think we’re doing really well,” said Harshman-Costello. “We’re really coming together as a team. People thought we were rebuilding because we lost 13 seniors. But our young kids have been waiting for this opportunity. I’m really happy where we are. We look forward to every game to get better. We’re pleased, but never satisfied.”