HERSHEY - Blessed with post-season savvy built-up through a decade-plus of success, the Penn Manor Comets seemed passive by design early in their District 3 semifinal match opposite the Hershey Lady Trojans.

As it turns out, it was the battle-tested Trojans who forced the issue.

"We didn't try it that way," Comets' head coach Matt Soto said of the slow start. "We wanted to control the game but that's a credit to Hershey, they came out really strong and that's good for them."

Fortunately, things started to click for top-seeded Penn Manor (22-1) after a pair of timely goals, as the Comets eventually put away the fifth-seeded Trojans (14-4-1) by a 4-0 count Wednesday evening at the Milton Hershey School's Henry Hershey field.

"We were telling each other to make sure we hustled," said sophomore forward Alyssa Schriver of the early struggle. "We just knew we needed to get into the cage."

Brooke DeBerdine's feed on a corner play to the insert player Maddie Warfel on the post gave the Comets a 1-0 lead just 4:40 into the game. But Hershey rattled-off five corners to just one by Penn Manor through the game's first twenty minutes.

"They were breathing down our necks the first third of the half and then we kind of clicked," Soto said. "Obviously knocking a couple in helped but we kind of clicked, and clicked with ourselves a little bit better."

A counter rush at the 20:01 mark produced a 2-0 lead when Emma DeBerdine lifted her shot above the sliding Trojans' goalkeeper Katharine Olmsted (1 save).

The Comets put the game away with a pair of second half goals, the first on Emily Robb's one-time shot off another corner 2:39 after intermission.

"She knew that (the timed shot) wasn't working," said Soto, having given Robb free-reign to call the set play. "We devised a play for her to get a good quick stop and get a good throw on the cage and everybody else was supposed to attack that. She just placed it perfectly."

Just over a minute later, Alyssa Schriver's cross to Gabby Bitts for the finish completed the semi-route.

"I liked when everyone hustled down the field so that we could get an open goal for Gabby," Schriver said, crediting fellow sophomore Hannah Brown for pushing the ball ahead on the rush.

"That's kind of our signature play," Soto said. "And we struggled to find that in the first ten to fifteen minutes."

Hershey had a lot to do with that, having navigated the Mid-Penn Keystone Division with the likes of Palmyra and Lower Dauphin.

The Trojans, now 0-4-1 against the rest of the semifinalists, will play in Saturday's third-place match at Lower Dauphin Middle School opposite Lower Dauphin, a team they tied with back in September.

Penn Manor likewise draws a familiar opponent in Palmyra, which outlasted Lower Dauphin 2-1 in the evening's first semifinal. The Comets and Cougars finished as co-champions after a 1-1 tie in last season's PIAA State title game a year ago, while Penn Manor besting Palmyra 2-1 in overtime this season.

"I hope the outcome is similar," Soto said. "They're really good. We have our work cut out for us."

Saturday's AAA final is slated for 3:00 p.m. at Henry Hershey Field, following the conclusion of the AA final between L-L champion Donegal (24-0) and Twin Valley (23-1).


Girls' High School Field Hockey

District 3 AAA Semifinal

Penn Manor 4, Hershey 0

HS 0 0 - 0

PM 2 2 - 4

FIRST HALF: 1 M. Warfel (B. DeBerdine), 4:40. 2 E. DeBerdine (UA), 20:01.

SECOND HALF: 3 E. Robb (M. Warfel), 2:39. 4 G. Bitts (A. Schriver), 3:44.



SAVES: HSY K. Olsted 1, M. Drayer 1; PM A. Schaefer 4

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