Palmyra earns trip to district semis, states
HERSHEY >> As is the case most years, the Palmyra field hockey team would like to see the district and/or state finals before all is said and done this fall.
The tight-knit Cougars would also like to see a lot more of each other, which heightened the importance of Saturday's District Three Class AAA quarterfinal against Cumberland Valley at Milton Hershey.
Needing a win to not only keep its district title hopes alive, but also to clinch a state tournament berth, Palmyra got what it was looking for, riding a dynamic performance from senior forward Erin Huffman to a thorough 3-0 victory, its second straight district shutout.
Now 20-2 and bound for a third meeting with arch rival Lower Dauphin in Wednesday's semifinals (site and time to be determined) the third-seeded Cougars scored all three of their goals in a span of 8:49 late in the first half, including Kylie Bomgardner's tip-in score at the 12:51 mark that provided all the offense Palmyra would need to stay together for at least another week or so.
Or longer, if everything else works out.
"This was a big game for us. Cumberland Valley is a great opponent and we really respect them," Palmyra coach Kristi Costello said. "We knew that we had to really execute today in order to be successful. But just having the opportunity to know we're going to the state tournament —we're going to have three more games at least — is a little bit of weight off our shoulders.
"We talk a lot about how it doesn't matter how great your regular season is if you lose in the first two rounds (of districts), because you go home."
With the playmaking Huffman leading the charge, the Cougars clearly weren't ready for the offseason just yet, scoring all of their goals off three of their 16 penalty corner chances.
First, Bomgardner, who later departed with a left ankle injury, tipped in a Huffman pass at the left post with 12:51 to go in the half.
Then Huffman knocked in a rebound 1:10 later for a 2-0 lead, before slamming home a Jess Dembrowski pass with just over three minutes to go before intermission.
"We've really been working on them, it's nice to see our hard work come through," Costello said of the Cougars' efficiency on corners. "The girls executed. We felt good about that."
"I think it was a good feeling when we scored on all three of those corners," Huffman said. "Our mindset is more, 'play hockey' than just get the ball and shoot. It's trying to make smart passes when you're in there."
For the second straight game, Palmyra, which routed Central Dauphin 6-0 in the first round on Thursday, dominated the stat sheet as well as on the scoreboard.
The Cougars enjoyed a 12-0 edge in shots, a 16-2 advantage in penalty corners and completely controlled the play after a fairly even first 10 minutes of the first half.
"Thursday night our passing game was really on and we did a really good job of moving the ball in the circle," Costello said. "Today, I felt like we executed and made the most of our opportunities. We just need to continue to grow."
"I think the whole team feels pretty good about it," Huffman said of Palmyra's recent play. "Our corners have been going really well since we made an adjustment to them. I think that really helped our team unity and stuff."
Just in time for another clash with Lower Dauphin. The teams split a pair of epic battles in the regular season, and the rubber match figures to be more of the same.
"LD!," Costello exclaimed, when she was jokingly asked who Palmyra plays next. "It's always a good game when we face LD. We'll prepare and I'm sure it'll be a good thriller for both teams and the fans. You want good hockey at this time of year."
And for Palmyra, at this time of year any kind of hockey will do.
Palmyra 3, Cumberland Valley 0
First half — P: Kylie Bomgardner, Erin Huffman 2
Second half — None
Assists — P: Huffman, Jess Dembrowski
Shots on goal — Palmyra 12, Cumberland Valley 0;
Corners — Palmyra 16, Cumberland Valley 2;
Saves — CV: Becca Harbert (9 saves), P: Cheyenne Sprecher (0 saves)