The Cougars started slow against Dallastown but still came up with a 3-0 win and a spot in the semifinals

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HERSHEY - Entering Saturday's District 3 3A quarterfinal contest with Dallastown, the Palmyra field hockey team hadn't played a game in 17 days - a regular season finale win over Susquehanna Township on Oct.12.

So it wasn't reasonable to expect the Cougars to be at the top of their game against the York-Adams  champs. And they weren't, particularly early on.

But less than its best was still plenty impressive enough to lift defending champ Palmyra to a convincing 3-0 victory at Milton Hershey School's Henry Hershey Field and into Wednesday's semifinal round against Hershey. The Trojans, who handed the 17-2 Cougars both of their regular season losses, knocked off Wilson by an identical 3-0 score on Saturday. The Mid-Penn Keystone Division rivals will square off for a third time this season Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Milton Hershey.

"I think we had a slow start in the first half," Palmyra coach Kristi Costello said. "We got that first goal right away, then I think we were just struggling. Dallastown was doing a good job just defending us and breaking up the play, but we weren't taking care of things on our end. The second half was much better, I was much more pleased with that."

That early first goal Costello referred to came from senior catalyst Jess Dembrowski, who used a nifty spin move in the circle and deadly accurate shot to open the scoring just 5:48 into the first half.

But from there, the Dallastown defense clamped down admirably behind goalie Syd Terroso (13 saves), holding Palmyra, which ended up with a 16-1 shots advantage and a 12-0 edge in penalty corners, off the board until the midway point of the second half.

"I'm not happy we lost, but we held them to 1-0 at halftime," said Dallastown coach Jeri Myers. "At halftime, we had a chance. (In the second half), we got fatigued and weren't doing our marking  and playing defense like we had been doing in the first half. But there were people in our league who said we were gonna lose 8-0. We certainly didn't."

But as noted, Palmyra forced the issue more in the second half, and it paid off with 16:27 left when freshman Mia Julian scored off an assist from fellow frosh Lauren Wadas for a 2-0 lead.

Less than 3 minutes later, Wadas scored herself, assisted by Dembrowski, to put the Cougars in complete control.

"I think the second goal just helped a lot," Costello said. "Just the change in the attitude, and trying to stay positive. It was getting frustrating, because you're getting those (shot) attempts and you're just not finishing. I was just trying to remind everyone it's a new half, and to just take a deep breath."

Given that the win earned them an automatic berth in the PIAA state playoffs and at least three more games this season, the Cougars were able to breathe a sigh of relief afterwards and focus on the next task at hand - finding a way to solve Hershey on Wednesday.

"I think anytime you play a team three times, that's difficult," Costello said, looking ahead. "But I feel like we were right there in both of the first two games and we didn't execute. I think our players will be ready to take on that challenge."

Palmyra 3, Dallastown 0

Dallastown 0 0 - 0

Palmyra 1 2 - 3

Goals: P - Jess Dembrowski, Mia Julian, Lauren Wadas

Assists: P - Wadas, Dembrowski

Shots: Palmyra 16, Dallastown 1

Saves: D - Syd Terroso (13 saves), P - Cheyenne Sprecher (1 save)

Corners: Palmyra 12, Dallastown 0

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