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Annville-Cleona field hockey grabs section crown

With a 3-0 victory over Elco on Wednesday, A-C claimed the Section 3 title, its first championship in 44 years.

MYERSTOWN - Currently, there is just one single solitary field hockey championship banner hanging in the Annville-Cleona High School gymnasium.

It's been alone for, oh, 44 years. No worries, though, it's about to meet a new friend thanks to the 2016 edition of Annville-Cleona field hockey.

A-C clinched its first championship since 1972 on Wednesday, wrapping up the Section 3 title with a 3-0 victory over county rival Elco on the Raiders' Senior Day in Myerstown.

Senior Morgan Zimmerman scored the only goal Annville-Cleona would need with 7:20 left in the first half via an assist from Lauren Schrader, and Emily Brightbill and Katelyn Brightbill added insurance scores after intermission against stingy Elco goalie Kendra Bicksler (14 saves) as A-C improved to 17-1 overall and closed out its section slate at 11-1, just clear of runner-up Lancaster Catholic (10-1-1).

Next up for A-C is a date with Section One third seed Warwick in the opening round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs on Saturday at a site and time to be determined, to be followed by a District 3-A playoff appearance later this month.

First things first, though. After a four decade-plus title drought, A-C gets to revel in its section title for a while.

"It's very special," said head coach and A-C alum Sue Felty. "The girls have really come together. It's so special, I can't really put it into words...I told them I wasn't gonna cry, but I did. They've worked really hard, and to see that pay off, it means something."

While Felty was shedding a few tears of joy, her players were beaming and basking in the glow of it all, posing for endless amounts of pictures with wide smiles on their faces.

Including Zimmerman, who got A-C started by flicking in Schrader's pass at the left post at the 7:20 mark of the opening half.

"It was super exciting," Zimmerman said. "If I'm correct, it has been 44 years. We're kind of always the underdog when Donegal (now in Section 2) is in our section, but they're out so it's our time to shine. It's exciting."

Even more so because Elco (10-6-1, 8-3-1) made A-C earn it with its feisty defensive play anchored by Bicksler, who was tremendous for much of the contest.

Despite a 17-0 edge in shots, A-C couldn't breathe easily until Emily Brightbill scored with 9:58 left and Katelyn Brightbill put the icing on the cake with 53 ticks remaining.

"We obviously knew they were coming out for blood," Zimmerman said of Elco, which was routed by A-C 6-0 in their first meeting last month. "And they gave us a game. I don't want to say the field was a little bit of a problem for us, but the grass was a little longer so we were kind of at a disadvantage there. But we came out strong."

"We knew it would be (tough)," Felty said. "Elco always is competitive. And we talked all week about not taking any team for granted, because we knew they'd come to battle."

Of course, A-C did as well,and in the process gave itself a nice and new problem - it has only a few days to enjoy the fruits of its labor before meeting perennial power Warwick in the L-L opener on Saturday.

"It's gonna be tough to turn around now and get ready for a game like Warwick," Felty said. "It'll be interesting, but it'll be fun. I think they're excited."

Goals: AC - Morgan Zimmerman, Emily Brightbill, Katelyn Brightbill

Assists: AC - Lauren Schrader

Shots: Annville-Cleona 17, Elco 0

Saves: AC - Haley Zimmerman (0 saves), E - Kendra Bicksler (14 saves)

Corners: Annville-Cleona 17, Elco 1