Donegal downs Merion Mercy in PIAA opener
LITITZ - For a team that has gotten its feet plenty wet in the postseason over the past several years, the Donegal Lady Indians were more than happy to let Tuesday's rain-splashed victory soak-in.
Getting a trio of goals from Mackenzie Allessie and heady play from their midfielders and forwards, the District 3 champion Indians splashed past District One runner-up Merion Mercy Academy by a 5-0 count Tuesday at Warwick High School to advance into the PIAA State quarterfinals for the first time since 2012.
"We came out and were disappointed the last two years thinking we could've won," said Indians' head coach Jess Shellenberger, referencing a pair of first round defeats in 2013 and 2014. "I just told them I want you to be proud of how you play today."
Fortunately, the Lady Indians (26-0) still get a kick out of splashing in puddles. Allessie scored 1:47 into the game after a pass at the top of the circle by midfield captain Alyssa Kohler on what was the first of 10 first-half corner opportunities.
Seven minutes later Allessie struck again off the corner insert from Rachael Overlander for a lightning quick two-score lead.
"I remember one game preseason and it was pouring down rain," Allessie said on being able to adjust to the conditions, "and we had to stay until we scored."
"That's how we roll," joked Shellenberger, referencing a 10-0 win on a similarly wet day at Warwick early in the season. "I think our kids handle adversity well. It took a little adjustment, they starting going hard to the ball and that was the end of that."
For Merion Mercy (13-8), effective defense in the midfield thwarted some of Donegal's pressure. But the patient drives into the circle from Allessie, Kohler, and Amanda Beck, among others, helped the Indians generate 16 corners to just 4 for the Golden Bears.
"We have to execute on corners," said Kohler, a senior. "(We have) as many people as we want against four of them, so we have to put the ball in the cage to make the most of the opportunities. We didn't have too many in the second half but we capitalized on a couple."
Donegal opened the half with a goal from Gabby Hess, who sent a rebound past Bears' goalie Lauren Thomas (5 saves).
After Mercy slowed things down in the midfield, generating a couple chances of their own to no avail - Indians' goalkeeper Katie Jean finished with 2 saves - Donegal finished things off on a pair of corner plays.
Good ball-movement and a shot by Kayla Walker led to Beck's tip-in with under 12 minutes to play. That preceded Allessie's drive at the 9:50 mark that was possibly redirected-in by Grace Miller.
"Our forwards were kind of getting the business from me tonight," Shellenberger, a former forward, said. "I think that the corner execution did better for us than maybe our forwards generating some shots, but that's fine. If you don't have a shot give us a corner, give us a chance to score there."
And for Donegal, which surpassed 200 goals for the season in the victory, just a little chance to score is a window of opportunity-not unlike the Saturday's quarterfinal opposite District 12 champ Archbishop Carroll, a 2-0 winner over Southern Lehigh, at a site and time to be announced.
"To come out here and win the first round is so exciting," Kohler said. "We don't know what to expect from our opponents but we can't take them lightly."
Because the last thing the Indians want to do now is dry off.
Girls' High School Field Hockey
PIAA Class AA First Round
Donegal 5, Merion Mercy 0
MM 0 0 - 0
DN 2 3 - 5
FIRST HALF: Mackenzie Allessie (Alyssa Kohler), 1:47; Allessie (Rachael Overlander), 8:57.
SECOND HALF: Gabby Hess (UA), 0:51; Amanda Beck (UA), 18:06; Allessie (Overlander), 20:10;
CORNERS: MM 4, DN 16
SHOTS: MM 2, DN 10
GOALIES: MM Lauren Thomas 5, DN Katie Jean 2