VIRGINIA BEACH — Even before yesterday’s U-16 National Futures Tournament championship final, Pennsylvania was already the winner. The state, which has some 303 hockey-playing secondary schools and boasts 63 percent of the 2007 U.S. Pan American Games women’s national team, had won the last six U-16 NFT titles.
Both Sylvia Shunk, head coach of the Kutztown team and West Chester coach Clarence Jennelle had steered their teams through pool play and the knockout round to face each other in the finals.
But there was still a game to be played. And even after West Chester took a 2-0 lead in the second half, there was a game to be finished. West Chester goalie Kylie Licata did everything in her power to close out the opponents, making five saves — including one with her face mask — as West Chester held off Kutztown 2-1.
Licata, a rising sophomore at Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.), made a flurry of stops in the final minutes, even after yielding a shot off the stick of Annie McLaughlin on Kutztown’s first shot of the half.
“We just said that we had to pull together, keep our D up, and they told me to save everything I could,” Licata said. “It was the first time I’d ever had the ball go off my mask in my life.”
Kutztown, led by U-16 national teamer Kelsey Kolojejchick, swarmed through the attacking midfield with great purpose and quickness. However, West Chester bottled up the Kutztown attack with timely tackling.
West Chester had come out of Pool D in second place, having lost to two goals to Team Trenton. But West Chester finished pool play strong and won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, showing a certain resilience.
“The years that there are problems, there are parts that don’t fit, and the years we won the gold, we had players that weren’t afraid to make suggestions, and weren’t afraid to talk to each other and work issues out together,” Jennelle said. “That’s the key; getting players who will work together off the field as well as on. Losing to Trenton the other day might have been the best thing that ever happened to us; it set us up for everything else we came up against.”
Kutztown 0 1 — 1
West Chester 1 1 — 2
WC: Madeleine Hackett, fg, third minute
WC: Kelsi Lykens (Kerrie Edmonds), fg, 30th
K: Annie McLaughlin (Kelsey Hunsicker), fg, 31st.
Shots: K: 8; WC: 8.
Saves: K: Elizabeth Millen 3, Amanda Lockwood 3. WC: Kaitlyn Ruhl 2, Kylie Licata 5.
Barbara Longstreth Sportsmanship Award: Cape May