Kylie Bomgardner's goal with 21 seconds left gave Palmyra a dramatic 1-0 district semifinal win over Hershey on Wednesday night.
HERSHEY - Heading into Wednesday night's 3A district semifinal, Hershey was the only puzzle the Palmyra field hockey team hadn't been able to solve this season.
After a total of 179 enormously frustrating minutes and 39 seconds of game action vs. the Trojans in 2016, the Cougars finally fit the pieces together with 21 seconds left in the third meeting between the two, riding Kylie Bomgardner's goal with 21 seconds left to a thoroughly dramatic 1-0 victory at Milton Hershey.
Now 18-2 - both losses came to Hershey via shutout during the Trojans' run to the Mid-Penn Keystone Division title - defending district champ Palmyra is headed back to the district title game for the fourth straight year opposite last year's finals opponent, Penn Manor, which dispatched Lower Dauphin 1-0 in the other semifinal.
All because Palmyra kept grinding amid the possibility of a third loss to Hershey this season, converting off a corner play when Bomgardner poked in Nicole Shank's pass from just in front of the cage with time winding down.
"Crazy thrilling," was how senior defender Bomgardner summed it all up. "I'm just really excited. It's just exciting that we get to go to the championship, and it's my senior year."
"Credit goes to our opponent, they played an excellent game," said Palmyra coach Kristi Costello, gracious in victory. "They're a very threatening team, and we knew that coming in. But I think you saw our seniors leading at the end, and obviously one of our seniors scored the goal there.
"They found a way to win. It wasn't always pretty, but again credit goes to our opponent. It was a great game, and they're a really great team."
Hershey, now 16-5-1 and coached by former Palmyra star Bri (Davies) Price, is indeed a terrific team and proved it from the get-go, earning a penalty corner 25 seconds into the first half and peppering Palmyra goalie Cheyenne Sprecher with 3 early shots that the UConn-bound senior deftly turned away.
In all, Sprecher finished with 7 saves, 6 in the first half when Hershey was at its attacking best.
"She was huge," Costello said of Sprecher's clutch play between the pipes. "She was outstanding. That's why she's headed to UConn. She doesn't get tested often, but you see her come up huge in these type of games. She kept us alive, definitely, in the first half. Some of the saves she made were just off the charts."
"I definitely needed her to have my back and she did great," Bomgardner said. "Without her we wouldn't have been able to (stop those shots)."
Palmyra, which ended up with an 8-7 shots edge and an 11-10 penalty corner advantage, was the aggressor to start the 2nd half, but Hershey goalie Kit Olmsted (6 saves) was equal to the challenge with some help from a defensive save from back Ali Cronin.
And as the half went on, the frustration grew for Palmyra as charge after charge into the Hershey defensive zone, many led by either Jess Dembrowski, Katelyn Mark or Lauren Wadas, went unrewarded.
The most painful near-miss came when a Mark blast hit the lower left side of the cage with just over 7 minutes left.
But Palmyra was undeterred, earning its final penalty corner with under a minute left and joyously cashing in when Shank corralled Dembrowski's initial shot off Olmsted's pads, and fed it to Bomgardner, who knocked it in for the game-winner.
For the record, that was No. 21 for the win with 21 seconds left.
"Honestly, I don't even remember who shot it," a beaming Bomgardner said. "All I know is Nicole hit it and I got to trickle it in.
"It's just a sigh of relief. We like to play challenging teams, so it's fun that we got to win such a challenging battle."
Palmyra 1, Hershey 0
Hershey 0 0 - 0
Palmyra 0 1 - 1
Goals: P - Kylie Bomgardner
Assists: P - Nicole Shank
Shots: Palmyra 8, Hershey 7
Saves: H - Kit Olmsted (6 saves), Ali Cronin (defensive save) P: Cheyenne Sprecher (7 saves)
Corners: Palmyra 11, Hershey 10