Palmyra overcomes rain, Owen J. Roberts in state opener
HERSHEY >> After two emotionally draining wins over fellow powerhouses Lower Dauphin and Penn Manor on the way to a district title last week, it was probably unrealistic to expect the Palmyra field hockey team to be at its best for Tuesday night's state playoff opener.
Add in a driving rainstorm, and a feisty opponent in District One No. 6 seed Owen J. Roberts, and all the elements for a less-than-top-notch performance were in place.
The Cougars won pretty convincingly anyway.
On the strength of a stifling defensive effort and first-half goals from supporting players Kylie Bomgardner and Lexi Smith, Palmyra began its final postseason journey with a solid, if not terribly sharp, 2-0 victory on the rain-soaked turf of Milton Hershey School's Henry Hershey Field.
Now 23-2, the reigning Mid-Penn Conference and District Three Class AAA champions now face a fourth meeting with arch rival Lower Dauphin in Saturday's PIAA AAA state quarterfinal round. LD knocked off District 7 champ Fox Chapel 3-0 in its state opener on Tuesday.
Site and time for Palmyra-LD IV is still to be determined, but wherever it is the Cougars will need to be on their game a good bit more than they were Tuesday night.
"It wasn't pretty, in more ways than one," Palmyra coach Kristi Costello said. "We obviously had an emotional week last week, playing Lower Dauphin and Penn Manor in the same week, and just given that this was an elimination game there was nerves that go into that. We took care of business, but we definitely have some things we need to work on.
"I think the weather definitely affected our play, but I'd like to see us sharper in a number of different areas."
Still, Palmyra dominated the stat sheet, outshooting Owen J. Roberts 11-1 and holding a thoroughly commanding 18-1 advantage in penalty corners.
And though not terribly efficient on them, the Cougars did score both of their goals on corners. The first came when defender Kylie Bomgardner knocked in a rebound off the pads of OJR goalie Amanda Lamb with 12:05 left in the first half.
Smith then got into the act with 3:18 to go before the break when she deflected Kiley Gallagher's blast past Lamb for a 2-0 lead and what would be the game's final goal.
"We've been practicing tipping every single day in practice, and obviously that paid off," Costello said, brightening. "That was awesome. I would have liked to see a couple more, but I thought their goalie played well, their kids played hard, and they were very athletic.
"We haven't had many in the last two games, so it was good to draw a lot of corners. We just weren't getting the ball stopped. We just weren't able to handle the ball as well, I think, because of the rain. But the kids were frustrated by the way they were playing, so that's a good sign, that they weren't happy with the way things were going."
Focus and execution figure to be less of a problem on Saturday with another meeting with Lower Dauphin looming. Palmyra has won two of the three matchups this season, but each contest was decided by a single goal.
"I think it's kind of a shame, to be honest, that we match up in a quarterfinal round and District Three teams have to knock each other out," Costello said. "Because I think we play some of the best hockey in state. But it is what it is, and to be the best you have to beat the best."
Palmyra 2, Owen J. Roberts 0
First half — None
Second half — P: Kylie Bomgardner, Lexi Smith
Assists — P: Kiley Gallagher
Shots on goal — Palmyra 11, Owen J. Roberts 1;
Corners — Palmyra 18, Owen J. Roberts 1;
Saves — OJR: Amanda Lamb (9 saves), P: Cheyenne Sprecher (0 saves), defensive save