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PIAA State Field Hockey – 2023: Palmyra Cougars Battle In Defensive Struggle, Finish Successful Campaign With State Silver


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On Saturday afternoon, Palmyra Field Hockey traveled to Cumberland Valley High School to play in their second straight PIAA State Championship game.  This marked the eighth time in ten years that the Cougars have reached the Finals, walking away as Pennsylvania’s top team twice (2014, 2020).  The Cougars also won States in 2005, raising the total number to three.

Having been dealt a heartbreaking overtime loss to Mechanicsburg in last year’s State Finals, this group of Cougars was especially hungry for another opportunity to win.  However, whenever the talent pool is pared down to the top teams in Pennsylvania, finding victory becomes much more difficult. 

The other remaining survivor this year was Villa Maria, an all-girls private school based in Malvern.  The Villa Maria Hurricanes entered the State Playoffs as the District 1 Champions.  Though they suffered four losses during the regular season, that list was comprised of some of the nation’s best teams, including the Hill School.  They won several of their games by commanding margins, with one example being their 13-0 win over Oxford in the opening round of Districts.  Like Palmyra, Villa Maria also has a history of excellence, having won the state title four times, with the most recent trophy coming in 2017.

Once the action started, it was clear that this was going to be a defensive struggle.  Halfway through the 1st quarter, the only highlight was a Palmyra corner that did not connect.  Late in the quarter, the Cougars were awarded another corner.  This time, they reversed their set-up and the ball found its way to the far side of the cage where Hadley Hoffsmith knocked it in using perfect bunt form.  Mallory Hudson was credited with the assist on the goal that gave Palmyra a 1-0 lead with 1:31 left in the quarter.

The game remained a battle through the entirety of the 2nd quarter.  The physicality of the duel started to show and a card was given to Villa Maria late in the quarter, putting Palmyra on what was essentially a two-minute power play.  Palmyra was unable to add to their lead and the game would remain 1-0 entering halftime.

Villa Maria entered the 2nd half, having been unable to get off even a single shot over the course of the first thirty minutes of the game against the Palmyra defense.  Early in the 3rd quarter, the Cougars picked up a card of their own.  However, just as with what happened earlier, even being a player down, the opposing offense could not break through.  Villa Maria would get a corner opportunity halfway through the quarter, which was also successfully defended.  Minutes later Villa Maria would get another corner, this time converting to tie the game with 1:48 left in the 3rd.

With the State Championship on the line going into the final frame, the tensions were running high.  Villa Maria’s physical play resulted in a five-minute penalty, which gave Palmyra another prime opportunity.  Again, the Hurricane defense held the Cougars in place.

Without much open field and even less in the way of scoring opportunities, the chances for a win would come at a premium.  That moment came when Villa Maria was able to get into the area in front of the goal and found a way to get the ball past Abby Bennett.  With just over four minutes remaining, Villa Maria had snagged a 2-1 lead.

Palmyra would continue to battle, but the situation turned grim when Villa Maria added an insurance goal with 1:45 remaining.  The final score of the defense-heavy contest ended with Villa Maria defeating Palmyra 3-1. The two offenses only combined for a total of six shots.

For Palmyra, it is the second straight season that ended in heartbreak in the Championship game.  While it is never fun coming out on the losing end, the success the Cougars found over the course of the season is something most athletes will never experience.  This 2023 Palmyra squad finished the season with a 22-3-1 record on their way to winning the Keystone Division and the District 3 Championship. They finished as one of the best teams in Pennsylvania and will again be ranked as one of the best in the entire United States.

While the program relies on excellence when it comes to playing the game, the culture starts with their motto “SCIJ” (Strength. Courage. Intensity. Joy.).  Those core values are something every player understands, as they help them to prepare for victory, but just as importantly help to prepare to become stronger in the face of adversity.  While the sting of defeat is painful, it is only temporary.  The life lessons learned and the relationships forged during their time wearing the orange and black are something that far outweigh the result of a single game.


The 2023 Palmyra Cougars pose with their hardware
Photo Credit: Palmyra Field Hockey Facebook


Game Stats


1st Quarter

1:31 – Palmyra – Hadley Hoffsmith, assisted by Mallory Hudson   1-0


3rd Quarter

1:48 – Villa Maria – Erin Mitchell, assisted by Caitlin Connell  1-1


4th Quarter

4:25 – Villa Maria – Lauren Kurek, assisted by Caitlin Connell   1-2

1:45 – Villa Maria – Ella Collini, assisted by Naomi Niewinski    1-3


Shots: Palmyra 2, Villa Maria 4

Corners: Palmyra 8, Villa Maria 2

Saves:  Abby Bennett (P) – 1, Katie Connelly (H) – 1




Palmyra’s State Championships: 2005, 2014, 2020

Palmyra’s State Championship Appearances: 2005, 2007, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022, 2023


For more on Palmyra Field Hockey, check out some of our recent coverage:

PIAA State Field Hockey – 2023: Palmyra Punches Ticket To State Championship Finals Using Strong 4th Quarter

PIAA State Field Hockey – 2023: Palmyra Defeats Manheim Central, Advances To State Semis

Palmyra Rolls in State Opener; ELCO’s Run Ends

Palmyra Wins District Championship; ELCO Defeats Annville, Gains State Berth

Team of the Week – Palmyra Field Hockey (Week of September 25th)

Female Athlete of the Week – Addison Sholly (Week of November 6th)

Female Athletes of the Week – Aeryn Marks & Mallory Hudson (Week of October 30th)

Female Athlete of the Week – Keely Bowers (Week of October 23rd)







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