Highlights from Palmyra girls soccer's loss at Hershey. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
Both the Palmyra Lady Cougars and the Hershey Trojans had a lot to play for in their second-to-last game of the regular season Thursday.
Palmyra is battling for its district playoff life – and was also trying to snap a two-game skid coming at the wrong time.
Hershey was a win and Mechanicsburg loss away from a Mid Penn Keystone Division title, and wanted to earn revenge from a 4-1 loss to the Cougars earlier this season.
Oh, and it was the Trojans’ Senior Night, and, both teams had to respond from seeing an incredibly difficult situation unfold shortly before halftime.
In the end, thanks to a hat trick from Lauren Epler, the Trojans pulled away for a 4-1 victory at Hershey High School.
The second part of Hershey’s division-clinching scenario did not go its way, though - Mechanicsburg won its game with CD East, securing the division title.
It was also the 200th career win for Trojans coach Jeff Rosensteel.
But the night wasn’t all celebratory, as a scary scene unfolded with 2:58 left in the first half, when an emergency medical situation occurred with one of the officials. The official on the sideline closest to the teams collapsed, causing players and coaches to frantically call for immediate medical attention. An ambulance was then called and brought onto the field. The official was awake and alert when he was transported from the field to an area hospital.
The rest of the half wasn’t played, but both Rosensteel and Palmyra coach Alanna Dunkle agreed to play the full second half after a 10-minute warmup. No word on the official’s condition was given.
“We’re a young team and that’s just difficult all around. We just focused on what was ahead of us and what we could control, and that was to play the game,” Dunkle said.
The Lady Cougars had found themselves down 1-0 at that point before the half, thanks to Epler’s first goal coming in the 15th minute, off an assist from Kaitlyn Schlemner.
Epler’s second goal made it a 3-0 game in the 57th minute, with the assist from Katie Cocco, and her third goal sealed the game at 4-1 in the 80th minute off a corner kick.
Schlemner had Hershey’s second goal in the 47th minute, off an assist from Hannah Jones.
Eden Haldeman had the lone Palmyra goal that had cut the deficit to 3-1 in the 71st minute, off a Mara Bowman assist.
And knowing all the hoopla surrounding its rival, Dunkle knew the night would be a challenge.
“I knew a win would be Jeff’s 200th win, so that’s exciting for those girls and him, plus their Senior Night … I knew they were going to be fired up,” Dunkle said. “It’s always harder to beat a team twice. I still think we played a pretty good game, we just need to hit the net.”
Scoring certainly has derailed the Lady Cougars, being held to a goal or fewer in five of their last six, resulting in losing five of six, including now three straight.
And Dunkle says it’s the only thing holding her team back from becoming a threat in postseason play, should they qualify.
“If we learn how to put the ball in the frame, we’ll become much more dangerous,” Dunkle said. “We’re a good possession team, but keeping possession doesn’t win games.”
Despite the loss, the Lady Cougars still find themselves clinging to the 16th and final spot in the District 3 power rankings with one game to play, Monday against Bishop McDevitt.