The Cougars never led until Lauren Wadas scored 3:38 into overtime to give them a second straight district title.
HERSHEY - Patience, of course, is a virtue. But for the Palmyra field hockey team on Saturday, persistence proved to be a bigger one.
Despite being out-shot, out-cornered and generally outplayed by top-seeded Penn Manor throughout the District 3 3 A title game at Milton Hershey, Palmyra somehow claimed its second straight district title with an epic 3-2 overtime triumph.
Freshman Lauren Wadas tallied the game-winner 3:38 into an OT session made possible by Lexy Smith's dramatic tying goal with just 27 seconds left in regulation.
Palmyra, now 19-2 heading into the opening round of the state playoffs on Tuesday, fell behind just 2:25 into the game when Anna May Barbusca scored for the Comets (22-2) and didn't lead for a single second until Wadas put home Katelyn Mark's pass in OT to set off a raucous celebration and give the program the 11th district title in its distinguished history. The Cougars will return to Milton Hershey on Tuesday at 7 p.m. to take on Council Rock South in the opening round of states.
Yeah, persistence. Or maybe another apt description, courtesy of Palmyra coach Kristi Costello.
"Our word has been 'rise'", Costello said. "And obviously we rose to the occasion. I just feel like it's 'find a way'. We scored with 21 seconds left the other night (to beat Hershey in the semifinals) and we scored with 27 seconds left tonight to get to overtime. We were out-shot, we were out-cornered...Penn Manor is an amazing team, and the fact that we executed when we had opportunities...We found a way."
And none of Palmyra's stat sheet deficiencies - Penn Manor enjoyed a 9-5 edge in shot and led 12-6 in penalty corner chances - mattered a bit after Wadas and Mark teamed up for the game-winner on the Cougars' third straight corner of the extra session.
"Katelyn got the ball and dribbled down (into the circle). She had a great pass across and I just finished," Wadas said in matter-of-fact fashion about her winning goal. "It was a great feeling. I just ran over to Katelyn and gave her a hug. It was a team effort the whole game. We were really together the whole game."
And the Cougars needed every bit of that unified effort to survive the Comets, including another stellar game in goal from Cheyenne Sprecher (7 saves) and brilliant all-around play from Mark and Jess Dembrowski.
After Barbusca's early goal, Palmyra somehow managed to hang in against the speed and skill of Penn Manor, and pulled even when Dembrowski ripped home Nicole Shank's corner insert with just 2:13 left in the half.
Unfortunately for Palmyra, the Comets needed only 56 seconds to respond, pulling ahead again when Emma DeBerdine scored off an assist from sister Brooke DeBerdine.
"Their speed is just unbelievable," Costello said of Penn Manor. "It's like 11 thoroughbreds are on the field all the time. They're just coming at you so fast and they put you under so much pressure.They are an unbelievable team."
And the Comets ran into an unbelievably stubborn opponent on Saturday. Though much of the second half belonged to Penn Manor in terms of possession, the Cougars simply refused to break. That determination paid off magnificently 27 ticks from defeat, when Smith pounced on a rebound of a Mark shot and lifted it into the cage to tie the game. The goal was partially made possible by a 5-minute yellow card Brooke DeBerdine received shortly before that left Penn Manor a player down.
"That was awesome," Wadas said of Smith's goal. "She just got it from Katelyn, spun and put it in."
Penn Manor never recovered, as Palmyra applied pressure throughout OT that finally broke the Lancaster-Lebanon reps when Wadas cashed in for the biggest goal of both her young career and Palmyra's season to date.
"I guess I'm most proud, because of where we started the year to where we are now is just awesome," Costello said. "They've trusted us throughout the process and it hasn't always been pretty, but they've found a way to get better and grow as a team."
"I still don't think we've peaked," Costello smiled, "and I'm happy because we still have the state tournament."
Palmyra 3, Penn Manor 2 (OT)
Palmyra 1 1 1 - 3
Penn Manor 2 0 0 - 2
Goals: P: Jess Dembrowski, Lexy Smith, Lauren Wadas. PM: Anna May Barbusca, Emma DeBerdine
Assists: P -Mark 2, Nicole Shank, PM - Brooke DeBerdine
Shots; Penn Manor 9, Palmyra 5
Saves: P- Cheyenne Sprecher (7 saves), PM- Brit Hook (2 saves)
Corners: Penn Manor 12, Palmyra 6