Penn Manor advances to PIAA semifinals
ELVERSON — For the Penn Manor field hockey team, a victory in the PIAA state quarterfinals is just another step toward the ultimate goal.
That doesn’t mean, of course, the Comet players, coaches, and fans can’t celebrate the milestones along the way.
Battling windy conditions and an aggressive Unionville offense, Penn Manor outscored the District One champion Indians 5-3 Saturday afternoon at Twin Valley High School to advance to the State Semifinals and in the process, tally head coach Matt Soto’s 600th career victory.
“I didn’t want them to make a big deal of it. I didn’t know they knew,” Soto said of the players’ and fans’ postgame acknowledgement. “They (the players) worked hard for that and I’m honored. It means I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve had some good people — no, great people — around me.”
Working particularly hard for the District 3 runner-up Comets (24-2) was senior goaltender Allison Schaefer, who stopped 12 shots by the Indians (23-1) in the second half while trying to protect a 5-1 lead.
“Luckily I had a strong defense to support me,” said Schaefer, a Liberty recruit. “I couldn’t have done it without them. It was definitely intense; a lot of fun, too.”
After being held without a corner in the first half, Unionville racked up eight corners in the second to match Penn Manor’s output for the game.
Following a trio of saves, Claire Donovan slipped a shot past Schaefer (16 saves total) on a give-and-go with Annie McDonough on a set corner play with 12 minutes left to cut the score to 5-2.
Erin Matson followed with just under 3 minutes to play, closing Unionville within a pair, but not before Schaefer blocked a Matson shot on a corner and followed it up by clearing the subsequent cross into goal.
“It’s a little tough to get used to but once you do it’s fun,” Schaefer said on the second-half barrage. “Obviously the rest of the team doesn’t want to give up shots but I think it’s a little more fun for me.”
“There is no doubt that is a great team, no wonder they were undefeated (coming in),” said Soto, remarking about Schaefer’s performance. “If we don’t have a scoring threat, they have us. We had to score a whole lot more than they did.”
A trio of Comet forwards factored in Penn Manor’s four-goal first half. Sophomore Alyssa Schriver worked around Unionville goalkeeper Lizzie Gaebel (9 saves) following a pass from Emma DeBerdine just four minutes in.
Six minutes later Schriver passed to DeBerdine from the end line, where DeBerdine lifted a shot over Gaebel for a 2-0 advantage.
Gabby Bitts later took a pass from DeBerdine and fought off a pair of Gaebel saves from the ground for goal number three.
Then, after Unionville got on the board on Katie Anderson’s unassisted goal with six minutes to go before halftime, a Penn Manor corner, inserted by Maddie Warfel, came to senior Emily Robb, who passed down to Brooke DeBerdine, whose shot was blocked. The ball came to Hannah Brown, who crossed into the circle where Warfel was wide open for a 4-1 halftime edge.
Emma DeBerdine scored on a pass from Robb with 20 minutes to play in the second half, while the Schaefer and the Comets defense did the rest.
“We’re all super-excited. I’m really proud of all of them and just excited for the team,” said Schaefer, admitting she was unaware of Soto’s milestone.
“I’m kind of sad that I didn’t (know) because that was pretty cool what the parents did,” she said of the signs they held after the game denoting the number 600. “(Soto) didn’t make it known, he likes to put us first because he’s a great coach and it shows.”
“It’s an exciting time of the year,” said Soto, now 600-117-42 in his 31st year at the helm of the Comets. “Being in the final four, it’s terrific. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but it’s so much fun. Look, they (the players) are all happy and relieved.”
And perhaps thankful to be a part of their coach’s milestone, as he is proud to once again lead his team into Tuesday’s semifinals.
Girls’ High School Field Hockey
PIAA AAAA Quarterfinal
Penn Manor 5, Unionville 3
PM 4 1 — 5
UV 1 2 — 3
FIRST HALF—PM A. Schriver (E. DeBerdine), 3:45; E. DeBerdine (A. Schriver), 9:27; G. Bitts (E. DeBerdine), 14:59; M. Warfel (H. Brown), 27:38; UV K. Anderson (UA), 24:35
SECOND HALF—PM E. DeBerdine (E. Robb), 10:03; UV C. Donovan (A. McDonough), 17:38; E. Matson (D. Godek), 27:06
CORNERS—PM 8; UV 8
SHOTS—PM 14; UV 19
GOALIES—PM A. Schaefer 16; UV L. Gaebel 9