The Palmyra field hockey team poses with its District Three championship banner after the Cougars topped Oley Valley 2-1 in overtime Saturday.
The Palmyra field hockey team poses with its District Three championship banner after the Cougars topped Oley Valley 2-1 in overtime Saturday. (Ashley Walter — Lebanon Daily News)

HERSHEY - Anybody from Palmyra want to guess the topic of conversation at the dinner table in the Dembrowski household on Saturday evening?

You get three guesses, and, well, the first two don't count.

If you get stuck, contact someone from the Palmyra field hockey team, because they were talking about the same thing. And will be for some time to come.

Sisters Jess and Katie Dembrowski teamed up for a goal that will only live in Cougar lore -- and in Dembrowski family lore, for that matter -- forever, a tip-in score by freshman forward Jess off a shot from Katie that lifted Palmyra to a heart-pounding 2-1 overtime victory over defending champ Oley Valley in the District Three Class AA championship game at Milton Hershey on Saturday afternoon.

Now 21-1, top-seeded Palmyra was in grave danger of a rare title-game defeat -- the Cougars have now won nine district titles and seven since 2001 -- after the Lynx outplayed them in the first half en route to a 1-0 lead at intermission.

But Palmyra stormed back with renewed resolve after the break, netting the tying goal on Erin Huffman's diving tip-in of another Katie Dembrowski shot with 22:14 left. The Cougars then pulled out the dramatic win when Jess Dembrowski redirected her older sister's top-of-the circle blast off a corner play into the back of the cage with 8:23 left in the 15-minute extra session.

If the Dembrowskis didn't have an unbreakable sisterly bond before, they sure do now, as well as a first-round state playoff date with Gwynedd-Mercy on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

"I just remember getting the corner, and then I inserted it out to Katie," Jess said with a shy smile, recounting the title-winning play. "And she wailed it into me, and I just tipped it in. It was just very exciting, and to know it was me and my sister was pretty cool."

Katie was kind of happy about it, too, as you might imagine.

"It was really special, actually," said junior midfielder Katie, the Cougars' field general/catalyst. "I looked up and saw Jess was there and thought, 'Thanks goodness.' It was nice."

Having a field-hockey playing sister in younger sibling and Palmyra assistant coach Kayla Harshman, Cougar head coach Kristi Costello could relate to the emotions the Dembrowskis were experiencing after their memorable collaboration. She was also as proud of the Cougars' wider team family as she was of the Dembrowskis.

Palmyra’s Erin Huffman, who scored the Cougars’ first goal, fires a shot toward the Oley Valley cage Saturday at Milton Hershey.
Palmyra's Erin Huffman, who scored the Cougars' first goal, fires a shot toward the Oley Valley cage Saturday at Milton Hershey. (Ashley Walter — Lebanon Daily News)

"That was so sweet," Costello said. "Just a good sister connection, and I think it's a true testament of our team, too. We have seniors who lead us, but we have freshmen, sophomores and juniors that contribute as well. And our team trusts them. It's not just a senior show. I was very proud of them for how they played together as a whole."

And had it not been for that superb collective effort after the break, the Lynx (21-3-1) would have taken the trophy back to Berks County for a second straight year.

Playing more aggressively and passing the ball superbly, Oley had the better of it for the first 30 minutes and reached its peak when Carly Kauffman knocked in a high rebound off an initial shot for the game's first score with 15:02 left in the first half.

The Cougars nearly evened the score before the break when Katie Dembrowski sent a shot just wide left of the cage in the closing seconds. But in general, the Cougars struggled for a bit to respond emotionally and physically to Kauffman's goal.

"The first half, we weren't really getting our two-touch passing (together)," Katie said. "That's like our strong (suit) that we have. We definitely brought that back in the second half. That's what helped us get our goals and play much better than we did in the second half."

"Oley Valley did a great job of moving the ball, and you have to credit your opponent," Costello said. "They were doing some stuff we haven't seen, so we kinda regrouped in a time-out and then at halftime and just made some adjustments. I think that was the difference. Our kids were disciplined in the second half, and they stayed patient and didn't get frustrated and down on themselves. They just kept plugging away, plugging away."

They also upped the intensity meter a few noticeable notches, with Katie Dembrowski, Megan Mille, Kendall Kreider and Haley Bova, among others, providing the energetic spark. And it paid dividends for the first time in the eighth minute of the half, when Dembrowski and Huffman teamed up for the tying goal, with Huffman lunging at a Dembrowski blast at the left post and deflecting it home to knot the score.

The Cougars had the better of the play from there but couldn't knock another one in in regulation, leading to the pressure-packed extra session of wide-open 7-on-7 play.

Pressure or not, the Dembrowskis and their teammates were equal to the task and then some.

And they've got the gold to prove it, if not necessarily the words to describe it.

"It's just, I don't know, surprising," Jess said, still letting it all sink in. "I'm speechless. Just overexcited."