Villa Maria wasn’t quite finding the right entryway to its attack circle in the first half.
They were stopped by Palmyra’s guards at the gates over and over despite the Hurricane’s attempts to file in through the left and filter through the top of the circle. But, once they studied one half of the Cougars’ hockey style, they made a few tweaks at halftime that made a big difference.
Villa was able to outlast Palmyra 3-1 Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School, the site of all three PIAA high school field hocky championship games. The Hurricanes made history as the 2023 PIAA Class 2A high school field hockey champions.
Palmyra, which has been to the last dance two years in a row, had its superpower limited. The Cougars only collected five penalty corners, which is a very low number for them.
Villa was able to defend against a team that often gets the defense to commit, finds a foot in the circle, or forces a defender that’s not five yards away on a free hit to play the ball too soon. Each of those situations usually leads to the Cougars earning corners.
But, Villa’s coaching staff rallied the Hurricanes at halftime giving them a motivational speech, as well as a new tact. They didn’t drastically alter their approach, however, they passed more and tried entering via the left side. And, they didn’t give Palmyra a ton of chances to possess or threaten their defense.
The Hurricanes scored on a corner in the third to tie the game. The next Villa goal came in the fourth, and it was pretty. It would later turn out to be the game winner, even with an insurance goal scored a few minutes later.
Caitlin Connell ran the ball to the left side baseline and reverse passed it across the cage. Connell couldn’t have been any lower to the ground for the ball to move as smoothly as it did. Lauren Kurek asked for the ball standing on the pads of Palmyra’s goalie. Connell made Kurek’s role easy, as she only had to tap it across the goal line for the point.
Moments later, the Hurricanes took another shot at a corner play, which was a pass back and forth between the receiver and another player at the top of the circle that opened up a clear shot to the cage. Villa was able to make it work ending the year as state champions.
Villa Maria Academy 0-0-1-2: 3
Goals: Erin Mitchell, 1; Lauren Kurek, 1; Naomi Niewinski, 1
Assists: Caitlin Connell, 2; Ella Cellini, 1
Penalty Corners: 4
Saves: Annie Cellucci, Catie Connolly, 2
Palmyra 1-0-0-0: 1
Goals: Hadley Hoffsmith, 1
Assists: Mallory Hudson, 1
Penalty corners: 5
Saves: Abby Bennett, 1