‘We wanted to win so badly,’ Anne Gardner on Hershey’s upset victory over Lower Dauphin

Luck was on Anne Gardner’s side last week when she scored on an unlikely shot, which gave Hershey the 3-2 win over Lower Dauphin.

“I was saying to myself the whole time, ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’” Gardner said of the final 2 minutes of regulation play.

The Keystone Division clash was the first of two meetings between the rival teams. Before the game on Wednesday, Lower Dauphin was on another one of its undefeated runs.

After the game, the Trojans leveled their records. Both teams are 5-1 entering game play the week of September 19.

“I don’t completely remember it,” Gardner said, who’s scored 8 goals this season. “If I had to say one thing, it was almost like we couldn’t even feel fatigue because we wanted to win so badly. We were sprinting the whole, entire game.”

Her teammate, senior Emily Beitzel, hit the ball into the circle in front of the goalie. Gardner was there to collect the ball and shoot – even though she had no idea where she was aiming.  

“I just kind of hit it from behind me and it went in,” Gardner said. “I was lucky. I was just trying to get the shot off.”

The Falcons have a roster chock full of skillful, dynamic, talented players. They are coached by Linda Kreiser, who is one of the most successful high school field hockey coaches not only in District 3, but also in Pennsylvania and the country.

The 2021 team finished its season 23-1-1. The only loss Lower Dauphin recorded was in the PIAA 3A state championship game, where the Falcons fell 1-0 to Emmaus, the reigning champs.

The Trojans, as well as many other teams in the Mid-Penn Conference, have everything they need to defeat the Falcons. The difference-maker is attitude, Gardner said.

“Everyone wants to hustle,” the junior said of the 2022 Trojan team. “We’re connecting our passing so much better. We went into (the game) thinking Lower Dauphin is better than us. I play with some of them on my club team. They’re really good. Everyone wanted to prove that we could do it.”

Lower Dauphin was pushing the pace of the game and challenging the Trojans on goal, said Hershey head coach Savanna Lenker.

“Anne’s shot was one of those that you don’t think it should go in,” Lenker said. “She swung and I don’t think she even looked at the goal. Their goalie is so talented. You couldn’t read the ball at all. And it caught net.”

The goal set off even more adrenaline in the Trojans. And the energy emitting from their fans could probably have lit up the electricity of a small town, Lenker said.

“Clearly we’ve built up their confidence to take those shots,” she said. “If we don’t take those riskier shots, we’ll never know. It was awesome that both she and Emily took the shots that were there.

“The stands were filled. People were screaming. I knew we were excited to play, but we’d tell them to focus. We changed a few things throughout the game tactically. We knew our strengths. Somebody on that field had to be the spark. So many people stepped up – I could name six players. That kind of atmosphere forces everyone to be their best and then execute their best.”

Beitzel set the tone by scoring her first goals of the season. She came out of the gates and put the Trojans on the board within the first two minutes. She scored on a corner in the first quarter. Lower Dauphin scored in the second. Then Beitzel scored again in the third, which was answered quickly by the Falcons in the same quarter.

“The first corner, the first goal, I scored,” Beitzel said. “I was honestly really surprised. The corner, that wasn’t the planned corner. Grace (Allery) passed it to me. It gave me space, and I took the shot. I think that as a team, we all just knew what had to be done. We had to play simple hockey and not make it too complicated. That’s exactly what we did. That’s what fueled us for the rest of the game.”

Allery assisted Beitzel on both goals.

Avery Pollock, a junior and Liberty commit, scored the Falcons first goal on a corner. She was assisted by senior Maddy Weaver. Lower Dauphin’s second goal was a Katelyn Strawser zinger.

Payton Killian, a senior and Millersville commit, had five saves in cage for the Falcons. New in cage for the Trojans is freshman Kylie Mullen, Beitzel said. Mullen had two saves.

“She’s doing really well,” Beitzel said. “There’s just good leadership all around the field.”

Hershey defeated Lower Dauphin in the state 3A championship game in 2018, when Beitzel was in 8th grade, she said. Hershey now plays in Class 2A.

That memory, though, is one she holds onto as a player.

“I think that after playing a game like that, we know we can play as a team,” she said. “This is going to be the expected level of play from now on. We’re all confident that we can play like that again. We need to keep the same energy. When we’re out on the field, we don’t yell at each other with negative words. We just keep up the positive energy that’s going to fuel us.”

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