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The Annville-Cleona field hockey team had won 18 games prior to Saturday's District 3 1A quarterfinal clash with Schuylkill Valley at Comet Field.

None of those 18 combined meant nearly as much as No. 19. Or were as bittersweet.

Just one day after the tragic, unexpected death of former teammate and 2016 A-C grad Stephanie Inman, A-C fought through the pain and despair of loss to achieve a memorable victory, a 1-0 triumph over the Berks County reps that landed it in both Wednesday's semifinal round and the upcoming PIAA state playoffs.

Now 19-2, A-C will take on top-seeded and unbeaten Oley Valley Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

It won't be any bigger a challenge than the one that was faced and conquered on Saturday, thanks to Cass Connelly's late first half goal off a Lauren Schrader assist and a stellar defensive effort.

"This game today meant so much to the team, family, and community," said senior forward Michaela Singer in an email. "We played for our previous teammate and friend Stephanie Inman. All of us wrote her number (28) on our wrist so that if we were hanging our heads we would see that and pick it right back up."

Any drooping heads were lifted immeasurably when Connelly swept in Schrader's pass off a corner play to give A-C a lead it most stubbornly refused to surrender.

"The first goal was very emotional but rewarding at the same time. The team has never wanted something so bad before," Singer said.

And never experienced anything like the feeling that came when the final buzzer sounded or the tragedy that occurred the day before.

"When that buzzer sounded for the end of the game it was an indescribable moment," Singer said. "It was bittersweet. Our team was able to come together under the circumstances and do it for Stephanie. There isn't a prouder moment than today to be able to call myself an A-C Dutchmen."

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