BY JEFF FALK
HARRISBURG – Where the Palmyra field hockey team’s from there are no I’s, no me’s, no she’s. There are are no individual accomplishments.
Because the only things worth doing, worth having, are achieved through collaboration and support from teammates.
On a cloudy Saturday afternoon at Central Dauphin Middle School’s Landis Field, the Cougars’ team chemistry, team culture and leadership played huge roles in the 2-0 victory over rival Hershey that produced their latest District Three championship. Palmyra jumped on the Trojans early with a Hadley Hoffsmith goal, then used an Avery Russell tally late in the third period to pad its advantage.
With triumph, the Cougars improved to 12-2 in District Three championship games over the last 21 years. The District Three title was Palmyra’s 14th overall.
Now 17-2-2 on the fall, the top-seeded Cougars will open play in the PIAA Class AA postseason event on Tuesday, most likely at home, opposite the fifth-place finisher out of District One. Second-seeded Hershey dipped to 16-3-1 on the year.
During the regular season, Palmyra and Hershey had split their two Mid-Penn Keystone Division encounters, the Cougars winning 6-2 in Palmyra on September 12 and the Trojans prevailing 2-1 in Hershey on September 29.
“The leadership on this team, not only from the captains, but all the seniors, is as good as any team I’ve ever had,” said Palmyra head coach Kent Harshman. “I’m not going to say the best, because I really don’t like comparing teams. But they’re very mature. It’s been a huge part of our success.
“We’re not going to go back and get into that (how 2021 concluded),” continued Harshman. “But I will tell you we select our captains each year, and everybody who’s coming back gets a vote. During the off-season, the leaders came up with a page-and-a-half on what they wanted to change and how to improve the team culture. That should tell you what kind of leadership we have on this team.”
That leadership also helped Palmyra to another hot start.
Generating eight early corners, the Cougars seemingly spent the entire first quarter in the Hershey circle. One of those corners, a mere 2:05 into the game, produced Hoffsmith’s goal.
After she had inserted the ball from the left, Bowers was able to slide the ball through the Trojan goal mouth. Hoffsmith was where she was supposed to be, stationed on the right post, and she rammed the pass into the cage.
“We were prepared to play,” said Harshman. “That starts with your leadership and how they prepare the team. The start was important and they (his players) were ready to go. One of the things we talk a lot about is ‘we’ve got 60 minutes to play a game at one o’clock’. There are no do-overs. There are no mulligans. In whatever is their way, they’re tuned into that.
“We got after them (the Trojans) in the first quarter, and that was huge,” Hershman continued. “And we stayed on them. Our corner defense was amazing today. I thought we played as well today as we have all year.”
With the Cougars possessing the ball, controlling play in the midfield and limiting the number of Hershey scoring opportunities, the score remained 1-0 for 42 minutes of action.
But with 1:59 left in the third period, Morgan Lantz set up Russell for a little Palmyra insurance. After the play originated from the left side of the field, the persistent Russell really stayed with it to guide the ball past Trojan goalie Kylie Mullen.
“I thought we had a great day,” said Harshman. “The best Class AA teams in District Three are from the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. They (the Trojans) won the division, so you know it’s going to be a great game. You’ve got to be prepared to pound and pound on the goal, and make plays. I was incredibly proud of our kids.”
Palmyra out shot Hershey 15-2. The Cougars enjoyed a 12-7 advantage in penalty corners.
Palmyra senior goalie Haleigh Lambert was credited with two saves in the shutout.
“There’s no magic to it,” said Harshman of the Cougars’ record of success in District Three championship games. “When you line up to play great teams, it’s who’s the greatest that day. It’s a credit to all the kids we’ve had over the last 21 years. They know how to prepare and they know what they’re playing for.”
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2022 Palmyra Field Hockey Results
PIAA District Three Class AA Power Rankings
|16||Spring Grove Area||9-||6-||2||0.568558||0.619048||0.506849||10.40||148.00||6.40||144.00|
History of District Three Class AA Champions
2021: Twin Valley
2012: Oley Valley
2010: Conrad Weiser
2008: Oley Valley
2006: Conrad Weiser
2003: Oley Valley
2000: Oley Valley
1999: Lancaster Mennonite
1998: Oley Valley
1997: Oley Valley
1996: Lancaster Mennonite
1995: Oley Valley
1993: Lancaster Mennonite
1988: Lancaster Mennonite
1987: Garden Spot
1986: Daniel Boone
1981: Conrad Weiser
Palmyra Field Hockey
Championship History Since 1998
Capital Division Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2001 – 2009
Keystone Division CO-Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2013, 2014
Mid-Penn Conference Champions: 2009
District III AA Champions: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2019, 2020
District III AAA Champions: 2015, 2016
1984 – ???
1991 – Ann Gruber
2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 – Wendy Reichenbach
2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 – Kristi Harshman-Costello
2019 – Kent Harshman
Pa State AA Champions: 2005, 2019, 2020
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007
Pa State AA Runner-Up; 2018
Pa State AAA Runner-Up 2015
PA State AAA Runner-Up 2016