MILLERSVILLE — Owen J. Roberts field hockey coach Clarence Jennelle is fond of calling this year's edition of the Wildcats "The Little Engine That Could.'
In Tuesday night's PIAA Class AAA Tournament opener, however, the Wildcats crossed paths with a veritable freight train in Warwick.
With standouts Marleise Emrhein and Liz Wenger serving as the conductors, so to speak, the Warriors rolled over Owen J. Roberts 5-0 at Penn Manor High.
Emrhein had three goals and one assist and Wenger had two goals to help District 3 runner-up Warwick (19-6-1) advance to Saturday's quarterfinal against District 11 champ Emmaus (a 2-0 winner over Downingtown West).
The District 1 No. 3 seed Wildcats, meanwhile, finished a rewarding campaign at 16-8-1.
"Considering where everybody projected us to be and where we ended up, this was a banner year,' Jennelle said.
It was a year highlighted by the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division title, a trip to the league championship, and a district quarterfinal win over Conestoga that earned OJR its third PIAA appearance.
Against the Warriors, though, the gritty Wildcats were simply not able to conjure up any more magic.
Wenger — a Georgetown soccer recruit — connected off an assist from Emrhein 9:52 into the contest after Warwick kept most of the early action contained to the OJR end.
The Wildcats had a good chance to answer back two minutes later, but Maddie Mullen's blast was stopped by goalie Kailynne Reinoehl. Little did Jennelle and Co. know that would be their best chance of the night.
Wenger scored again, this time with 10:15 left in the first half, and Emrhein got into the action with another goal 1:30 later that made it 3-0.
"Their ballhandling skills were very impressive,' Jennelle said of the Warriors. "They move balls at angles. We have this tendency, because of the way our league is, to pick up the ball and run because everybody stands still. You can run right at them, make your pull and be done, whereas with these girls (on Warwick), if you run straight at them they've got layers and will cause you problems.'
No one caused more problems for the Wildcats than the duo of Emrhein and Wenger. Wenger would up tallying both second-half goals, the first one coming 6:59 into the second half before she delivered the coup de grace off a corner in the final second of regulation for her team-best 21st goal of the season.
"They're the real deal,' Jennelle said of Emrhein and Wenger. "I was at their Twin Valley game (a 1-0 District 3 quarterfinal win), and Marleise had less than a second to get a shot off and she dropped it in a hole like three inches big.'
Warwick wound up with advantages of 14-1 in shots and 14-2 in corners. OJR's goalie platoon of Ally Mooney (five) and Lizzy Tamburro (three) combined for eight saves.
"They stayed on us a lot more,' Mullen said. "It was hard to beat their defense. They made it harder to cut in front of the ball. They were really good at picking up rebounds and moving it through.'
Jennelle bids farewell to a 10-deep senior contingent that includes Mullen, Mooney, Tamburro, Emma Christman, Shannon Harris, Elizabeth Karcewski, Ashley Kucera, Alex Montes, Lauren Schweppe and Jensen Condra.
"This was the team everybody thought was going to do nothing this year,' Jennelle said. "They showed so much heart, and from the first day of practice they worked hard. They worked hard on skills they didn't have, and that was part of it. We changed our practice curriculum, and added some things, and those things changed what we were doing and brought us where we needed to be. We just had a solid team all the way around. I think that was our identity.'
"Last year we didn't even make our conference playoffs,' said Mullen. "Over the winter, all the (current) seniors played together on a travel team, and we really focused on playing well together to get where we are. We pushed ourselves every practice and really worked well together. We weren't expected to get as far as we did, but we had a bunch of people that knew how to work well together.'
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.