Oftentimes in field hockey, a coach is blessed with a solid goalkeeper.
Or a talented front line.
Or a skilled midfield.
Even though her team had just three senior starters in the fall of 1998, Dallastown coach Jeri Myers had something altogether special
"We were a total team, we had the whole package," said Myers about her final-four state playoff team. "That made a big difference."
No area team had ever advanced further in the state tournament. Headed into the 2014 season, no team has advanced as far as the 1998 squad.
Goalie Lindsey Calabretta secured 13 shutouts that season, including back-to-back shutouts in the state tournament.
"When she cleared the ball, we were off and running," Myers said.
Other standout players included Katie Bishard, Jackie Loehwing, Sarah Hartman, Amanda Myers and Alison Poff.
And even though the York-Adams league has never had a district champion in field hockey, Dallastown came close to providing a season no one could forget. In the midst of a 61-game undefeated streak against league opponents, Dallastown placed fifth in the District 3 tournament in 1998. But that was just a start.
The fun part came in the state tournament.
Dallastown knocked off powerhouse Pennsbury, the District 1 runner-up, 1-0, on a late goal by Suzi Sutton with just over three minutes to play. Then the Wildcats managed to defeat West Chester East, 3-0. West Chester East had knocked off the defending state champion, Emmaus, in the first round and was anchored by national team player Maria Whitehead, who won a national title as a player while at Wake Forest.
Up next came the Wildcats' biggest challenge: Hempfield.
Sutton, who would set the program's career goals record before she graduated in 2000, remembers warming up for the 1 p.m. start at Lancaster Country Day School to find it surrounded by Hempfield fans. Dallastown had its own faithful in the stands, but nothing could compare to Hempfield's busloads of fans.
"I've had the opportunity to be on the field in front of 5,000 and 10,000 people," said Sutton, who now works as an international field hockey umpire, "but that was one of the best game-day atmospheres I've experienced."
Dallastown dominated play for long stretches of the game, including earning five penalty corners during a 90-second stretch of overtime. Still, Hempfield found a way to win. Krystal Kling scored 8:14 into overtime to clinch a spot in the state final.
Myers thought the ball was kicked in. She remembers the umpire walking off the field without blowing the whistle. Hempfield fans stormed the field. And Dallastown's magical run had ended. It finished the season 19-4-2.
Almost 10 years later, the York-Adams is still waiting for its first district championship. York-Adams teams have made strides to catch up with traditional District 3 powers in the sport, but it's still a challenge. An all-District 3 state championship game featured Lower Dauphin defeating Hempfield, 4-0, in 1998.
"We were always behind (in prior years) because we never had a junior high program," Myers said.
Dallastown and other programs now have feeder programs, but it's still a matter of playing catch-up.
"Now it's called turf," Myers said. "There are teams that won't play us because we play on grass."
The skills and conditioning needed to play field hockey on turf are different than playing on grass. And playoff field hockey is played on turf.
Dallastown is installing a turf field this summer, but Myers knows not every practice, not every game is going to be able to be played on turf.
Other teams around the district have turf surfaces, and, while some teams in the York-Adams league have installed turf fields, the league has not kept up with some of the powerhouse programs in District 3. Myers noted two: Lower Dauphin has a turf field it can devote to its field hockey team, and Manheim Township has multiple turf surfaces.
It's a difficult grind, but it also helps illustrate how special the 1998 Wildcats were in advancing to the state's final four.
ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION >> Dallastown will celebrate its program's 50 years of field hockey on Sept. 6. Myers, just the third coach in the program's history, expects to invite former players back to celebrate the event. It will coincide with Dallastown's invitational, providing alumni and players a chance to socialize.