Emmaus ends Henderson's magical season

By BILL RUDICK

brudick55@gmail.com

REIFFTON -- No other West Chester Henderson field hockey team had ever gotten so far as the 2013 edition. The Warriors came into Tuesday's Class AAA semifinal riding an impressive 24-game winning streak, knowing that two more would net them a state championship.But standing between the Warriors and a slot in the state title game was Emmaus, the District 11 champion. The Hornets were riding a pretty impressive streak as well, 27 consecutive years in the state playoffs with 10 PIAA titles in 12 appearences.

The Green Hornets will get a chance for their 11th after Ashley Moxley scored with just over 12 minutes left to win the battle of the unbeatens with Henderson, 2-1, on a frigid and windy afternoon at Bob Thompson Stadium at Exeter High School. Emmaus will face defending state champion Lower Dauphin in the championship game Saturday.

"You know, there's been games along the way that we didn't play particularly well, but we won,' said Henderson coach Jen O'Donnell. "Today, I actually think we played a pretty good game. We just didn't win.'

The Green Hornets (26-0) struck first just a little over the midway point of the first half. Kristen Mickelson took off on a break and found herself one-on-one with Henderson goalie Emily Finn. Mickelson got the better of the matchup, as her shot squirted through on Finn's glove side and into the back of the cage for a 1-0 lead.

Double teaming Henderson's star Katie O'Donnell for much of the afternoon, the Emmaus defense did a pretty good job of stifling the Warriors' offense."They put a lot of pressure on,' said O'Donnell. "Not just on me, but all over the field. That is a really good team over there.'

It was a defensive plan well-executed by the Hornets.

"For the most part, we knew what to anticipate from (Katie) O'Donnell,' said longtime Emmaus coach Sue Butz-Staven. "Her air dribbling was even better than what we'd seen on film. She's one of the top players I've seen, and I think we did a good job containing her.'

The Warriors (24-1) finally got on the board just under the midway point of the second half. Putting on strong pressure in front of the cage, Henderson was awarded a penalty stroke. Brianna Bolon lined up and rifled a shot over goalie Tori Laczo's stick and into the the top left corner of the cage. The score knotted the game with 14:44 to play.

But, like the playoff tested team they are, Emmaus had an almost immediate response. Awarded a corner a little over two minutes later, the Moxley grabbed a ball in a crowd, slipped in behind Finn and tapped in what would be the game-winner.

"That was huge to score so quickly after they tied it up,' said Butz-Staven. "But we've got to come up with a solution to getting it in the back of the cage more. We had a ton of opportunities, especially on corners. I guess both team struggled with finishing. Maybe it was the weather. But we've got to figure it out.'

Henderson definitely had its chances, and did a pretty nice job of transitioning upfield. They just never found the finishes that had been coming previously."I think we were making some good connections,' said Jen O'Donnell. "We were getting the pressure and moving the ball well. We just couldn't ever seem to get that one last pass we needed.'

The loss doesn't diminish what the Warriors accomplished over the course of their unprecedented season. Henderson captured its third straight Ches-Mont League National Division crown and captured the District 1 Class AAA title, all while going unbeaten until they ran into Emmaus.

"This was more than I could ever have imagined,' said senior co-captain Carly Askinas. "At the beginning of the season, I don't think we won any of our srimmages. None of us would have thought we'd be playing in state semifinals. But we all really came together and had a great season. We won districts, we won a couple state games. It was a great year, and that makes this a little easier.'

The defeat also marks the final time Katie O'Donnell will be playing field hockey, as she will be playing lacrosse at Penn State next year.

"I feel like we accomplished a lot as a team this year,' said O'Donnell. "We made it to state semis. There aren't a lot of teams even from District 1 that make it to state semis and we did. It was just great to get the experience of playing in a state semifinal. Hopefully this is just the start for Henderson field hockey. I hope teams that follow just want to pick up where we left off and go even further.'Her mother, and coach, has similar wishes.

"We're getting there as a program,' said coach O'Donnell. "That team over there has had a solid program for decades. I fell like our program is only about three years old. It's a work in progress. We just have to keep working on our stick skills, keep working on our speed. Keep working hard.'She will, nonetheless, look back on this team, and its development over the coure of the season, and have nothing but fond memories.

"Everyone worked hard and worked with us,' she said. "We as coaches kept moving people around to find our best spots, and everyone was just flexible. This is not a hype team, just even and balanced. They just ran into a great team today. It's the first loss, but they should hold their heads high and be proud of all they achieved.'

Emmaus 2, West Chester Henderson 1

Emmaus 1 1--2W.C. Henderson 0 1--1Emmaus goals: Mikelson, Moxley. W.C. Henderson goal: BolonGoalie saves: Laczo (E) 4; Finn (WCH) 15.