FIELD HOCKEY: Donegal downs Penn Manor, 1-0 for L-L title
WITMER - Donegal midfielder Mackenzie Allessie hesitated just a bit before firing toward the goal-cage midway through the second half.
The freshman didn't hesitate post-game, however, when it came to sharing her reaction to the game-winning goal - a goal which lifted the Lady Indians to a thrilling 1-0 victory over Penn Manor to capture the 2015 Lancaster-Lebanon League field hockey championship Thursday night at Conestoga Valley High School.
"I was really excited because it was a whole team effort, we got it in," Allessie said of her go-ahead goal with 14:21 remaining. "We got the corner and then we executed it perfectly and I just knew we got this. We can win."
The league title was the first for the Lady Indians (21-0) since 2008 and avenged a 3-1 loss to Penn Manor in the 2009 title game, a victory which propelled the Lady Comets (19-1) to a string of five titles in six years, including the last three in a row prior to Thursday's game.
"Penn Manor always wins," offered Indians' head coach Jess Shellenberger, "and to see (us) come in here and compete and to win on top of it is outstanding."
Allessie's goal came on a penalty corner triggered by sophomore Cassy Stauffer after forward Kayla Walker took a fast-break into Penn Manor's end.
On Amanda Beck's ensuing insert, junior Rachel Robinson dumped left to Allessie, who dribbled with her back to the cage before a sudden reverse-sweep crossed through the Penn Manor defense and past goalkeeper Allison Schaefer into the corner of the goal.
"Our game plan was to pass it down to the post, and I saw if they were open and they weren't and I saw that there was a line to goal and I just took it," Allessie said of her 47th goal of the season.
"We just feel confident giving the ball to Mack," said Robinson. "Everyone trusts her. It starts with the insert and we had to get that corner to even have the opportunity to score, so it was a whole team effort."
The 1-0 final may seem surprising between the two highest scoring teams in the league, especially after Penn Manor dominated much of the first half with a 9-3 advantage on corners and 3-2 advantage on shots.
"I thought we played a great first half, so I was pleased with our kids defensively," said Comets' head coach Matt Soto. "The fact that we had how many corners in the first half and didn't knock one in give them credit, they played great defense against us."
Despite the volume of corners (the teams combined for 20 corners in the game), the primary battle came in the midfield with Comets' junior Brooke DeBerdine stealing possession.
"They play differently than other teams," Robinson said. "They pack it inside so we knew we had to go out and around, but they started to adjust to how we were doing; we had to keep adjusting."
"I said to them this is championship hockey right here," said Shellenberger, mentioning the defensive work by Grace Miller and Alyssa Kohler in the second half. "You've been put on your heels for about fifty minutes and you came away victorious."
Both goaltenders made huge stops as well, with Schaefer (3 saves) stopping Walker's push early in the first half and Allessie's rocket shot early in the second.
For Donegal, sophomore Katie Jean (5 saves) denied several drives toward the cage, knocking away Emily Robb's one-timer from the top of the circle and Emma DeBerdine's shot from the elbow eight minutes into the second half.
Guaranteeing that Allessie's goal the all-important game-winner.
"It's so exciting to know what we came from in preseason to now, it's amazing," said Allessie, who will now seek to help the Lady Indians defend another title when the district 3 tournament begins next week.
But for Shellenberger, winning the L-L League deserves its own recognition.
"Leagues is huge to me," said the tenth-year coach. "I remember going into districts (in 2008), just the pride, you can feel it puffing up in your chest to start districts. We're the L-L League champs, that's an amazing thing to say stepping into that tournament."
Meanwhile, the top-seeded Comets will seek to defend a different title next week after their PIAA co-championship last year.
"There's a lot of fuel for building on this, you better believe it," said Soto, mutually without hesitation. "We got some things to learn and we're going to learn them quick."
Girls' High School Field Hockey
L-L League Tournament Final
Donegal 1, Penn Manor 0
PM 0 0 - 0
DN 0 1 - 1
Penn Manor Scoring: NA
Penn Manor Assists: NA
Donegal Scoring: M. Allessie (15:39, 2nd)
Donegal Assists: R. Robinson
Corners-Shots: PM 14-5; DN 6-4
Saves: PM A. Schaefer 3; DN K. Jean 5