For the first time in a long time, nothing tangible was up for grabs when Palmyra and Lower Dauphin resumed their storied field hockey rivalry on Wednesday night at In The Net.
Not first place, not a playoff spot, not a championship, not an opportunity to play for a championship.
But it was still Palmyra-LD. So it mattered. A lot.
Trailing front running Hershey in the Mid-Penn Keystone Division, Palmyra and Lower Dauphin nonetheless treated their latest encounter like it was championship-worthy, going to overtime before Jess Dembrowski scored with 9:11 left in the extra session to give Palmyra a heart-pounding 2-1 victory.
Palmyra's fifth win over LD in its last six tries left it 14-2 overall and 7-2 in the Keystone, while Lower Dauphin dropped to 10-4-1 and 5-2-1.
Not that win-loss records were important on Wednesday night, either.
"After losing to Hershey last Thursday, we knew we were out of the Keystone (title race)," Palmyra coach Kristi Costello said. "But our message was, 'This game still matters' It matters big time, for pride. Lower Dauphin is a great team and we're sitting at No.2 in the (AAA district power rankings and trying to stay as high we can. This game mattered to us."
And like anything that means a great deal, it took quite a fight to get it.
The Cougars struck first, getting a Lexy Smith goal off a Lauren Wadas assist with 25:50 left in regulation, only to see LD respond in kind with a Courtney Kimball score with 7:48 to play that eventually forced overtime.
That's where Dembrowski stepped to the front, finding room in the circle six-plus minutes into the 7 v 7 affair and firing a low shot past LD goalie Katie Lammando and into the back of the cage before disappearing into a sea of jubilant teammates.
"It was really a team effort the whole game," Dembrowski said, deflecting any glory for the win. "All my teammates were working hard and we were just trying to stay in the game. We scored first and then we let them get a goal. In overtime you just want to score first because we're all tired. It was good for the team to get one in and have the win under our belt."
Indeed it was a true team win that included 10 huge saves from goalie Cheyenne Sprecher - including two in the first minute of OT - and big efforts from freshmen Wadas and Olivia Shoemaker, who never flinched amid LD's tough, quality play that helped it dominate the final 25 minutes of regulation and the early stages of overtime.
"You had big games from a lot of people," Costello said. "But you also saw our role players step up. One of our backs (Shoemaker) is a freshman, and just the toughness she showed... Just getting a lot out of our young kids, I thought that was really good. And just being able to adjust to what they were throwing at us and absorb it and then get our chance in the overtime."
And senior midfielder Dembrowski made the most of that chance, using her skill and experience to force Lammando to commit to a possible pass to Smith on her left before ripping the game-winner into the cage.
"I was one-on-one with the goalie, and I think she thought I was gonna pass it to Lexy, which I was," Dembrowski said. "But then I didn't because I just saw it was wide open."
"She made a big-time senior decision in scoring that goal," Costello said. "She made the right move and she finished it."
Palmyra 2, Lower Dauphin 1 (OT)
Lower Dauphin 0 1 0 - 1
Palmyra 0 1 1 - 2
Goals: LD - Courtney Kimball, P - Lexi Smith, Jess Dembrowski
Assists: P - Lauren Wadas
Shots: Lower Dauphin 12, Palmyra 6
Saves: LD- Katie Lammando (3 saves), P: Cheyenne Sprecher (10 saves), Jess Dembrowski (defensive save)
Corners: Lower Dauphin 6, Palmyra 5