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Highlights from Palmyra girls soccer's season-ending 4-1 loss at Fleetwood in the first round of the District 3 Class 3A playoffs. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com

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FLEETWOOD – They already knew the hand they were dealt to begin the postseason as the No. 16 seed.

That, for the Palmyra Cougars, meant facing an unbeaten Fleetwood Tigers team which had ripped through its competition en route to a conference title, shutting out every opponent.

And that was pretty much the Tigers' MO all season.

Though the Cougars managed to get on the board in this one, it was too little too late and the Tigers continued their surge with a 4-1 win Monday night at Fleetwood High School in the first round of the District 3 Class 3A tournament.

It was a big night for Fleetwood’s Sydney Lobb, who led the way with two goals and an assist.

Lobb’s goals came in the 23rd minute, which first put Fleetwood on the board, and then the 44th minute to give the Tigers a commanding 3-0 lead.

Lobb’s assist came on Fleetwood’s second goal of the game, from Emily Levan just over a minute into the second half. Brianna Harwood put the game out of reach with a goal in the 60th minute.

The lone Palmyra goal came off the foot of Hannah Bowman in the 63rd minute, in what ended up being her final game in a Cougars uniform.

“I got the ball and I saw I had space. I knew the wind was with me, so I just took the far shot and hoped it went in,” Bowman said. “I just kept moving for the ball the whole game.”

No matter how bad or good the outcome, all Cougars coach Alanna Dunkle wanted was something she’s asked for in every game this season.

“I wanted them to come out and play their best. We had nothing to lose,” Dunkle said. “We knew they played an indirect style where they’re looking for the long ball, and we adjusted to that.”

And when things started to unravel a bit early in the second half, Dunkle was proud of how her squad continued to fight and started generating some chances.

“One thing I’m always proud of our girls for is they never stop. No matter the score, our girls will give their best until that buzzer goes, and that’s just incredible,” she said. “It’s the way they play and I love that about them because it’s their character and it shows.”

Even though they did eventually get on the board, inconsistent scoring plagued the Cougars again, who had been held to a goal or fewer in six of their last eight games coming into Monday.

“It’s the same story all season. We always had our opportunities. We’re just such a young team, and we haven’t learned how to capitalize those opportunities yet,” Dunkle said. “I’ve told the girls this before that it is something I don’t think can be taught. It’s something they have to do on their own. That’s getting a bag of balls and going out and shooting … just you and the net. If you want to win, you have to make sure you’re putting away your chances.”

But when you’re as young a team as Palmyra is – losing only three seniors in Bowman, Mara Bowman, and Eunice Messick – simply gaining postseason experience against a team like Fleetwood is something to build on for the future.

“It shows them that when you get to postseason it's real … it's sink or swim,” Dunkle said.

And the returning Cougars already have one vote of confidence from a departing senior.

“I’ve had fun. These girls were great to play with these four years,” Bowman said. “I’m happy with how we played. We’re a young team and I wish them the best of luck next year.”

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