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It took Ephrata (12-6-1) earning its only corner in the first quarter Saturday, after Palmyra had a frenzy of them, to evoke the Cougars’ beast mode.
Palmyra (15-2-2) won 7-0 at home against the Mountaineers in the District 3 Class 2A quarterfinals. The No. 1 seed moves forward to play No. 4 Mechanicsburg at home Wednesday in the semifinals.
“I think we came out really strong,” captain Alicia Battistelli said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get started in the morning, but I think our warm-up was good. We started the energy out strong, and we were able to pull through the whole game. And we got some players off the bench and into the game, which is always a great thing.”
Battistelli put her foot down defensively against Ephrata’s attack corner. She dribbled authoritatively through the Mountaineers’ offense and then sent the ball up the field.
Her stellar corner defense helped flip the script for Palmyra. Seconds later, once the ball was back in the Cougars’ attack circle, Hadley Hoffsmith had possession and tapped the ball behind her to Battistelli for the goal. About 70 seconds later, the Cougars put shot and rebound on repeat before Keely Bowers became the finisher.
Palmyra ended the first on a corner play, which had a dust up in front of Ephrata’s goalie Hannah Poplis. Morgan Lantz ended the quarter scoring making it 3-0. There was no time on the clock.
But overall, Poplis had a phenomenal game. She was under pressure for a majority of the 60 minute-game denying both hard hit ground balls and swiftly paced lifts.
The next four Cougar goals were scored on corners.
“We’re always trying to improve our corners,” Battistelli said. “And I think we’ve been working really hard at that; just trying to give it our all in every game, getting every ball in the cage.”
The University of Vermont commit said the team’s strength is in its camaraderie.
“We’re always trying to play for each other,” she said. “And I think that shows in our lack of cockiness. Because we’re not thinking we can do it all. We’re relying on our teammates to play confidently because we have confidence in our teammates. And trust in our teammates.”
That also shows in numbers, where all but two of the goals had a partner. Five of the goals were a duo that included a strong insert on a corner.
Goal four in the second quarter was Bowers to Mallory Hudson. Goal five in the third was Battistelli to Bowers. Goal six was Liv Kirkpatrick to Morgan Lantz in the third. And goal seven was Kirkpatrick to Bowers in the fourth.
“It felt really good,” Bowers said, who scored three goals and had one assist. “It’s just because my teammates were all working so hard and working together to just run up the score. I thought we played a really good game today. Everyone’s being selfless, two touch. It was really good.”
The Mountaineers struggled to match the Cougars’ ball placement and passing game.
“Mainly, we’re focused on getting our shots off quick,” Bowers said. “We’re kind of trying to stay off our reverse and do more forehand shots. And, just looking for those tippers on both sides.”
Palmyra’s coaching staff yelled messages several times. And when they did, it worked.
“We really trust our coaching staff,” Bowers said. “They’re all alumni. We work really hard for them. We trust in them. So, if they have something to say, we listen to them and it just works. I’m just really happy with how we performed today. We really worked as a team. We communicated well. Everyone was lifting everyone up. And, I can’t wait to see how far we go.”
Kent Harshman said he and his coaches put the Cougars to work on Thursday. The results of the demanding drill showed up in Saturday morning’s game.
“Let’s face it,” he said. “The better start you get, the better things go right away. You gain confidence and maybe it sets the other team back a step. I think a good start is a good thing. We’re always looking for a quick start.”
There are a few more items the team is working on, he said. One of them is vertical spacing, meaning the distance between forwards to mids and mids to backs.
“You get a turn around and the other team actually gets a run on your backs and your mids can’t keep up,” he said. “So, we’ve been working on all that trying to make it tighter. And I think they did that today. Yes, they got a corner early, can’t tell you what happened there. All and all, no they did not get any quick transitions on us.”
As far as his team listening to him and his coaches, he said he doesn’t like to yell but he also doesn’t want them to overwork.
“They do take direction well,” he said. “When I yell, I’m told everybody in the place can hear me. When we’re drifting left, when we kind of get in a happy place, we start to drift left. We want an 80-20 rule. We want the ball on the right side. We don’t want to be on our reverse. We don’t want to be on our left side. We just kind of have to remind them.”
The game was an experience for the Mountaineers, Ephrata head coach Joy Rice said. They are going to be playing for fifth place.
Palmyra has secured its run at a state championship.
“We’re a really young team,” she said. “Getting to play this next game, and even this game, was a little unanticipated. So, it’s really exciting for us. And I think we’re just ultimately grateful that we earned the opportunity in regular season play. It’s a great experience for them to take with them in the future.”
- Goals – Battistelli (1), Bowers (3), Lantz (2), Hudson (1),
- Assists – Hoffsmith (1), Bowers (1), Battistelli (1), Kirkpatrick (1), Bri Eckenroth
- Shots – 20
- Penalty Corners – 19
- Saves – Haleigh Lambert (1),
- Goals – 0
- Assists – 0
- Shots – 2
- Penalty Corners – 1
- Saves – Hannah Poplis (12)
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*FAN is headquartered in District 3. We are also following district games statewide. Check back for November postseason coverage.