It’s a move Reagan Eickhoff has made hundreds of times.
She’s positioned at the top of the circle, where she receives the ball, carries it to her right, eliminates the flyer, and sends a hard hit into the cage. But this corner wasn’t just any ordinary corner.
It was the game-winner in a rare story of a smaller, rural school earning its respect in a state where field hockey has deep competitive roots.
“I’ll miss my teammates so much,” Eickhoff said after the game. “They’re all my best friends. But we proved it, and we showed them what little Bubbletown can do.”
Boiling Springs was crowned state champs Saturday in Class 1A after defeating Wyoming Area 1-0. The Bubblers ended their season 26-0 and 22 of them were shutouts. Only four goals were scored on Boiling Springs all season.
It’s the first time the Bubblers earned the gold in their program’s history. Wyoming Area, which had also never made it to the final round, ended its 2022 season as the runner-up with a record of 22-3. The Lady Warriors earned a silver medal.
When the senior Ohio State University commit reflects on the Class of 2023’s past four years, she said the Bubblers have bonded over wins and losses. They lost to Oley Valley, Greenwood, and Wyoming Area, which all knocked Boiling Springs out of contention for the state championship game at some point during their high school careers. Not this year.
“(Wyoming Area) took a lot of control in the beginning of the quarters, but we were like, ‘nope, that’s not happening’ and we kind of just turned it on,” Eickhoff said. “And when we were up, sometimes we just hit it into the goalie, we pulled back, we went around, we were using our passes and just doing everything that always works for us.”
The game came down to the Bubblers wearing down Wyoming Area’s exceptionally organized backfield. The Lady Warriors’ midfield and backs seemingly thrived under pressure. Wyoming Area collected 16 shutouts in its season, too.
That showed when Genna Bush and Lexi Hanlin gave give and go passes down the right in the Bubblers attack 25, where they repeatedly had the ball stripped away. Wyoming Area had a player blocking the baseline, the circle in the lower right, and the pass to the stroke mark. Two to three sticks were on the ground in the hockey sweet spot.
And until Eickhoff’s goal, the Warrior’s goalie Rylee Muniz and defenders Bianca Pizano, Elle McKernan, Addyson Dragwa, and Alyvia Yatsko held it down during Boiling Springs’ 10 corner attempts.
But the duo of Bush and Hanlin continued to repeat their right-sideline run until they finally started to get them to lower their guards just enough to strike.
“I think composure is a big part of it because they were starting to get rattled,” Eickhoff said. “We were getting calls. They were getting lots of cards. And you just have to rise above in that situation. Like if you can go above them, then you won in that factor. Because emotion plays a huge part, especially in this setting with so many fans.”
Despite not having much action all season, goalie Eva Hancock helped her team to secure the victory. She had three shots launched at her. And she recorded two saves.
“My defense showed up, absolutely beyond belief,” the Messiah commit said. “Back there in the backfield that was a little bit scary a couple times. First shot came off, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually happening. This is finally sinking in right now.’ But once I got that first, second shot, I was in the game. I was locked in. I was like, ‘I know I’m not going to let anything past me. I’m doing everything to keep that scoreboard on a zero.”
It was Pizano, a Michigan State commit, and UMass commit Alexys Moore driving the offensive push for the Warriors.
Moore worked the right sideline the entire game while Pizano was all over the field and repeatedly sending long aerials down the field to try to get the Wyoming Area offense going. The Warriors had four corners and weren’t able to capitalize.
“This is absolutely crazy,” Hancock said. “Day one, we sat down and we talked with our teammates. Win Districts. It was still such a crazy thing for us to be like, ‘Oh, we want to win districts.’ But going into districts, Reagan called us all in a meeting. No coaches were present. It was just a team thing. And she said, ‘We want five goals.’ One goal was to win districts, and we did that. And then we did the exact same thing for states. And she said, ‘We wanna win states.’ And we did exactly that.”
Here’s Hancock’s four-year perspective on being a student-athlete: don’t quit.
“There are going to be days that you aren’t going to want to get out of bed, you’re not going to want to go to practice, you’re not going to want to put in the time,” she said. “But those are the days you need to get out of bed most importantly because those are the days that are going to drive and make you even stronger than you think you can be.”
That’s the kind of disposition the Bubblers all agreed to during preseason. Eickhoff noted that that’s what made the backfield so calm, a belief in team. Eickhoff found herself deep in the backfield a few times working with Zoe Collins, Kylie Rife, and Tess Naylor. Shae Bennett, too, had a handful of touches that impacted the play, but she was often marked.
“Our defense plays really calm, and it’s awesome because I think the calmness from them goes through to the forwards,” Eickhoff said. “Because obviously it can get frustrating not capitalizing, but having them just calm us down and know, Kylie, she is a brick wall. Tess is a brick wall. Eva, obviously, and then Zoe. It’s just amazing back there. Just getting it out wide was a really big point because it was a very strong team.”
Wyoming Area was given cards in the first and fourth for physicality. A few Bubblers were knocked to the ground when emotions were high. The Lady Warriors head coach Bree Bednarski described her backline as “steady.”
“I thought the game went well,” she said. “There were some things we could’ve done a little better, but it just turned out how it turned out. It was a great season. It was a very historic season for these girls, winning districts for the first time ever, making it to the state finals for the first time ever. Great girls. We’re really going to miss them next year. I wish them the best in college, and they’re really going to excel in college.”
The Boiling Springs seniors end their undefeated season as Class 1A state champions, District 3 champions, and Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division champions.
Cumberland Valley hosted the state championship games. It was a shorter trip for Boiling Springs, but a two-hour drive for Wyoming Area. The stands were packed with fans and student sections for both schools.
“I think the emotion was definitely pouring out, even on the way to the school, and then on the way here and before the game, and so I think we fully felt like in our minds we just knew,” Boiling Springs head coach Kortney Showers said.
Showers continued: “As the head coach, and even within our coaching staff, we just feel like moms to them at times because they’ve taken it on. They’ve taken this game and made it theirs, and they’ve been the leaders of their own thing. Sometimes Heather (Eickhoff), Janelle (Howard), and I just have so much fun and we just enjoy watching them, and sometimes we don’t even have to do all the work. Like, they came up with the goals by themselves, and Shae redid the corner cards. They have such a leadership within themselves that they have taken some of that pressure off that I can just sit back and enjoy it. I’m excited because they’re so excited as well. It’s just really cool.”
The Bubblers theme in 2022 was “oneness.” There are 18 players on the 2022 roster, of which, 15 of them have scored.
“We truly appreciate everyone’s opinions and works,” Showers said. “There were some girls that didn’t play much in postseason, but they showed up to practice every day and were pushing the girls that would be getting more playing time. So I think it’s just that concept of you have that believe-in from your own teammates to show up for you and show up for each other.”
*Cam Eveler contributed to this story.
- Goals – Eickhoff
- Assists – 0
- Shots – 6
- Penalty corners – 10
- Saves – Eva Hancock (2)
- Goals – 0
- Assists – 0
- Shots – 3
- Penalty corners – 4
- Saves – Rylee Muniz (3)