For two teams stuck in the logjam that is the Division I field hockey hierarchy, Wednesday provided a chance to make a statement.
For Central York, a win at Red Lion could prove that the Panthers are the top contender to compete with Dallastown for the division crown. For the Lions, a win over Central coupled with a potential win at New Oxford later in the week could show that they belong in the same discussion as the Wildcats and Gettysburg as the league's top teams.
Fortunately for the Panthers and head coach Lori Livingston, it was Central's sideline celebrating a win at Horn Field on Wednesday.
"It is a statement win," Livingston said. "And it's even more important because we lost to New Oxford. It should give the girls a confidence boost."
Senior Greta Plappert scored twice and the Panthers (5-2, 4-2 YAIAA Division I) held Red Lion (5-2-1, 4-2) scoreless over the final 55 minutes to come away with a 3-1 win.
The Lions struck first less than five minutes into the game when Hayley Taylor located the ball during a scramble in front of the cage and poked it by Central goalkeeper Abbie Timperio. Three minutes later, Plappert, who came into Wednesday's contest with four goals on the season, took a pass from Sara Rilatt off a corner play and scored from 15 yards out.
The senior forward wasn't done. Less than two minutes later, Plappert made a nifty move to beat a Red Lion defender one-on-one, then ripped a shot past Lions goalkeeper Jena Everett, who finished the day with six saves.
"Credit to Central and (Greta) Plappert," Red Lion head coach Carol Gillmen said. "She's a very skilled player and we didn't mark her well. Our marking got better in the second half, but we had already dug ourselves in a hole. One goal is not going to win a game against Central. They're a good, skilled team. We got the one goal, but after that, there wasn't much positive."
The Panthers added an insurance goal with just over a minute left in the first half. Kyra Heap collected a rebound off the goalie's pads and shot the ball into the lower left corner of the cage, giving Central a 3-1 lead at the half.
"They did all the things they're not used to doing," Livingston said of her Panthers. "They (Red Lion) scored first, so we came from behind, and we scored goals. Then in the second half, we told our girls that Red Lion would press, but they did a good job of doing what we told them to do."
Red Lion's offense did indeed press as Livingston predicted, peppering Timperio in the second half but the senior made 13 saves.
"Central just does a very good job of keeping their sticks on the ground and pressuring the ball," Gillmen said. "I think our forwards need to make adjustments, but that's a lesson to be learned. I think our girls will learn from it and play better in the future."
The key for the Panthers defense was zeroing in on Gill Orwig and Jayla Godfrey, who have combined for 10 goals this season along Red Lion's front line. Neither Lion scored a goal on Wednesday, but they'll get a chance to bounce back when Red Lion travels to New Oxford for another key divisional contest Friday.
"I think in Division I, there are a lot of skilled teams and anyone can beat anyone else on any given day," Gillmen said. "So we can't rest on our laurels. We started very strong, but this is a critical moment in the season. We have strong leaders on the team and they saw we didn't play well today. I'm confident that we'll have good practice and go to New Oxford and turn things around."
Central York 3, Red Lion 1
Central York30—3Red Lion10—1
First half — 1. RL, Hayley Taylor (Gill Orwig), 25:14. 2. CY, Greta Plappert (Sara Rilatt), 22:10. 3. CY, Plappert, 20:20. 4. CY, Kyra Heap (Breann Craley), 1:46.
Second half — None.
Shots on goal — CY 9, RL 14.
Corners — CY 6, RL 7.
Goalies — CY, Abbie Timperio (13 saves). RL, Jena Everett (6 saves).