The Dallastown Wildcats burst into song as they stood in front of the goal where they scored both of their goals in a 2-0 win against Bermudian Springs on Thursday.
The players kneeling in the front row held up a "YAIAA Championships" sign, signifying the league championship they'd just won minutes earlier — the program's third title in four years — and the whole team started to sing the 1979 Sister Sledge hit "We Are Family."
The song carried on a tradition that Dallastown coach Jeri Myers, who is in her 35th year, estimated is older than most, if not all, of her players as it started when she forced a disgruntled team to sing it well more than a decade ago. The Wildcats continue to sing it every year at the end of the preseason, the end of their home invitational tournament, and — for the third time in four years — after winning the YAIAA championship.
"We kind of just bring it back at all the happy times, and it helps us come together," said Dallstown senior Maggie Noll, who scored the first goal of the game in the second minute of the second half. "As a freshman, I watched them sing it, and I waited for my year to be the one singing it."
The significance of the song to Myers is the idea of family that her program instills in its players starting in seventh grade. Over the years, her teams have enjoyed team bonding exercises such as picnics, games called "crab soccer" and "chuck the chicken," and the rope course at Roundtop Mountain Resort. Myers excused the Wildcats from practice this Friday, but they'll still visit Field of Screams as a team.
"It's funny because when people say, 'What do you remember about Dallastown field hockey?' They talk about activities other than field hockey," Myers said. "It's the ride home on the bus, it's all the things you do that are not hockey related. For girls in particular, that's a big factor. For guys, I think it's a little bit different, but for girls, the bonding part is more important than just going out and playing the game."
In Myers' time at Dallastown, having a close-knit team has often translated to wins. This year hasn't been any different, as the Wildcats' championship game win marked their 16th shutout in 20 games this season. They've won 18 games and have only allowed five goals all year.
On Thursday, they held Bermudian Springs to two shots on goal, primarily by keeping the ball away from Eagles leading scorer Kenzie Farley.
"That's what we try to do, we try to shut down their best player, and they have to go to plan B and plan C," Myers said. "That's our defensive play, that's why we have success defensively."
Noll's goal early in the second half gave the Wildcats the lead, and Abby Kuhn gave them some breathing room with a goal 13 minutes later. Both goals came on plays that started with penalty corners.
While those goals helped Dallastown regain the title, Bermudian Springs reached a new high in YAIAA tournament play, despite the loss, as the Eagles received second-place medals.
"In all the years we've made this thing, this is the first time we've gotten here," Bermudian Springs coach Neil Bixler said. "I'm just proud of the kids for hanging in and playing hard. We played well, they're just a great team. You can't take anything away from them."
Dallastown02—2 Bermudian Springs0
Second half — 1. Dt, Maggie Noll (Molly Lohss), 18:28. 2. Dt, Abby Kuhn, 14:34.
Shots on goal — Dt 8, BeS 2.
Corners — Dt 10, BeS 2.
Goalies — Dt, Syd Terroso (2 saves). BeS, Madison Dewease (4 saves).