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If it wasn’t clear before the quarterfinals that Boiling Springs was “meant to be” in the 2022 PIAA Class 1A state tournament, it is now.
“We’re proving everyone wrong that’s like, ‘Oh, they’re just here because of this or that,’” senior captain Reagan Eickhoff said. “We’re here because we’re meant to be here, and we worked this hard to be here.”
The Bubblers pulled off a 1-0 shutout win over Newport in the quarterfinals. The field hockey contest was a back-and-forth battle that equally involved Bubbler offense and defense.
“During the regular season everybody was underestimating us because we didn’t play against the most skilled teams,” senior captain Shae Bennett said. “But in postseason, we keep showing up and we keep showing out, and I think that’s letting other teams know that we’re here to play.”
It was Eickhoff who scored the lone goal off a Boiling Springs corner 5 minutes from the end of the third quarter, and Bennett got the assist.
Alex Bandura inserted the ball to a waiting Eickhoff at the top of the circle. The Ohio State commit dribbled to her right, then used her reverse to dump it behind her to the left side of the circle.
Bennett got a shot off soon after, and while it was initially saved, Eickhoff picked up the rebound and lifted it into the net behind Newport’s Ella Weidenhammer in cage.
“0-0 is anyone’s game,” Boiling Springs head coach Kortney Showers said. “As soon as we scored, we were like, now it’s our game that we can control.”
Eickhoff’s goal changed the Bubblers mentality in the evenly matched game.
“We weren’t getting shots, and they weren’t getting shots,” Eickhoff said.
And when the Bubblers scored, Eickhoff said her team “just needed to keep it composed from here on out.”
Composure has been a key focus for Boiling Springs in postseason play. And if any particular Bubbler was composed against Newport, it was senior defender Zoe Collins.
“Our defense had a really good game, especially Zoe,” Bennett said.
The Ohio University commit played the game of her life and kept her cool the entire contest.
She repeatedly denied the Buffaloes offense opportunities on corners and inside the circle and even had a few offensive moments herself, carrying the ball out from the Boiling Springs’ defensive 25 and passed the 50 before distributing. Her teammates referred to her as a “brick wall.”
“We definitely had good communication in the backfield as far as marking and stuff like that,” Collins said. “That really helped awareness and preventing those goals. I think sometimes we just needed to remind ourselves to slow down and play our game. Play how we know we can play.”
Preventing goals is nothing new for Boiling Springs. This is the team’s shutout this season, and the Bubbler defense is quickly becoming more game tested compared to the start of the season.
“Our offense was scoring double-digit games, and obviously we were having shutouts because it wasn’t even getting to that,” Showers said. “Now we’re getting there, but we have a strong defense too. So, they’re getting their chance to shine and show they’re just as strong as our offense, which is really cool.”
However, Newport didn’t go down without a fierce fight first, especially since the Buffaloes had already played Boiling Springs in the District 3 Class 1A tournament semifinals where the Bubblers had walked away with a 1-0 win and a trip to the finals.
In the state tournament, Newport was “looking for redemption,” head coach Cheryl Capozzoli said.
“We literally were sick the day we played them,” she said. “Everybody on the team and the coaches had a touch of food poisoning. And we knew that if we worked hard and we worked together we could’ve overcome, but it wasn’t in the cards. They’re a great team.”
Capozzoli believed her players “had the skill” to beat Boiling Springs, but her offense needed to be “more aggressive in the circle” since they “weren’t able to find the back of the cage.”
The score would’ve been much more lopsided, however, if it weren’t for Newport’s own defenders.
Bailey Kuhn, Chloe Greene, and Delaney Greene solidly maintained the Buffaloes back line, blocking attacks from powerful Boiling Springs offenders like Reese Hays, Genna Bush, and Lexi Hanlin.
Kuhn, a scrappy “never-say-die player,” was all over Newport’s defensive end and appeared in the nick of time to keep the Bubblers’ strong forwards at bay.
The senior was even hit with an Eickhoff shot 3 minutes into the second quarter, but she was unfazed.
“I put her on the field, and she gives me 110 percent,” Capozzoli said of Kuhn. “She just goes hard no matter what she does, and I can’t ask for a more committed player on the field. She shut down the left side, so I was really proud of the way she hustled.”
The Bubblers were dangerously close to losing a key defender early in the game.
With 28 seconds left in the first quarter, Tess Naylor was hit by a high ball in the circle and went down. She was briefly replaced by Jenah Hovis before coming out again to start the second quarter and play the rest of the game.
Then later in the third quarter, Hanlin was given green card for physical play, but the Bubblers are familiar with being a player down.
“We’ve played with some girls down before, so I don’t think we let that really shake us. We’ve been in worse situations,” Showers said.
And 48 seconds from the end of the fourth quarter, Bennett was green carded as well.
“We obviously knew this team was a little bit more physical than we’re used to, so I think again it came down to our composure,” Bennett said. “We tried to stay as composed as possible.”
Newport’s Makenna Buffington and Claire Weidenhammer were also both green carded in the fourth quarter for not being 5 yards away on a free hit.
“I told the girls it wasn’t physical. It was mental on our part,” Capozzoli said.
She referred to her team as “underdogs” in the postseason and said she couldn’t be prouder her girls made it to “the elite eight.”
“Nobody thinks Newport’s much of anything,” she said. “We get 25 girls come out and we build from within.”
And now the expectation for next year is to make it back to postseason – or what Capozzoli calls “bonus rounds.” But if Newport makes it to postseason next year, it will be without seven players in their lineup.
“I love my seniors,” Capozzoli said. “I’ll miss them, and I can’t thank them enough for the leadership that they offered. They led by example, and I think the younger kids really looked up to them. I know they’re disappointed right now, but they have to be proud.”
Boiling Springs now looks forward to the semifinal round, where it will face off against the second seed from District 4, Central Columbia. The Jays defeated New Hope Solebury, the first-seeded team from District 1, by a score of 1-0 in double overtime to earn their date with the Bubblers.
“At this point, every single team is gunning for us,” Eickhoff said. “There’s not a team that’s going to roll over and be like, ‘Oh, it’s Boiling Springs. They haven’t lost, so we’re just going to let them win’ so kind of having that in the back of our heads as well.”
Showers is also proud of how her players “continue to stay humble” as they continue a historic season for Bubbler field hockey.
“I don’t know if they feel it, but sometimes it’s hard to think of where we’re actually at,” she said. “You have big wins like this, and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re actually killing it!’ But we have to rehumble ourselves for the next round. We can celebrate, but then it’s onto the next.”
- Goals – Eickhoff (1)
- Assists – Bennett (1)
- Shots – 9
- Penalty corners – 6
- Saves – Eva Hancock (1)
- Goals – 0
- Assists – 0
- Shots – 1
- Penalty corners – 2
- Saves – Ella Weidenhammer (5)