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Nov. 1, 2014 — Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 1, Palmyra (Pa.) 0

HERSHEY, Pa. — When it was known that Mid-Penn Conference Keystone Division rivals Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) and Palmyra (Pa.) were going to be aligned together into Class AAA for 2014, the fierce field hockey rivalry between the two Route 422 neighbors was going to be ramped up.

With the teams splitting two matches this year, and with both teams at No. 6 in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, the rubber game promised to be one of drama. And the PIAA District 3-AAA title match at Milton Hershey School was one on a knife-edge throughout, meaning that it would take a bit of fortune or a great goal to determine the outcome.

It took a little of both to give Lower Dauphin the 1-0 victory. A seemingly innocuous cross in the 38th minute was deflected by the Palmyra defense and Palmyra goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher made a waist-high clear. The Falcons’ Maddie O’Neill deftly bunted the ball back into the goal cage. It was a finish you don’t teach in the field hockey manuals; it was a moment of pure genius as she lifted her stick vertically so that the head of the stick contacted the ball while jumping slightly so that her stick remained below her shoulder.

“We do rebound drills, but we don’t drill for that,” said Lower Dauphin head coach Linda Kreiser. “That was a great shot; she was right where she needed to be and she got that shot off quick.”

“That rebound was put on an a peanut-butter shelf,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello, who was back on the sidelines just 11 days after a head-on automobile crash sent her to the hospital. “You have to give it to her; that was a great goal.”

The goal was about the only mistake that Sprecher made all day. She was outstanding against a Lower Dauphin team which is the defending PIAA Class AAA champion, one that has the experience of 21 seniors.

“They took advantage of taking advantage of possession within the 25,” Costello said. “That was something we didn’t do as well today.”

The match was on a knife-edge, to be sure, although neither team generated a penalty corner until a third of the match had elapsed. Much of the play consisted of poking and prodding at the edge of the 16s, with each team — surprisingly — taking defensive stances.

Indeed, when Lower Dauphin had consistent and clean possession in the final two minutes deep in the Palmyra defensive zone, the Cougars were content to place all 10 outfielders behind the ball, and it looked for all the world that they were settling for the silver medal and a first-round match in the half of the bracket where the District 1 and 11 champions were to be seeded.

But Palmyra sprung a late counterattack and earned an untimed corner at the end of regulation. On the play, Katie Dembrowski floated towards the right wing and knocked a shot that Maddy Lillyock parried over the goal line, ending the game.

“My team fights,” Costello said. “They have a lot of heart; we gave ourselves an opportunity at the end, but we didn’t get it in.”

Palmyra (20-2) 0 – 0 — 0
Lower Dauphin (22-1) 0 – 1 — 1
LD: Maddie O’Neill, fg, 38th


FULL TIME At the horn, Lower Dauphin wins the game 1-0

59:59 PHS PC Katie Dembrowski’s shot saved by Maddy Lillyock and the game is over!

59:38 They do; and a raised ball in the circle will lead to an untimed corner at the end of regulation

58:00 Palmyra almost seems too content to keep numbers behind the ball; can they spring it forward?

55:00 Five minutes to go; will Lower Dauphin take the air out of the ball?

50:00 LD PC Ends on a missed set

46:30 PHS PC Defensed by Joely Helder on the fly!

45:10 LD PC Abby Julius’ shot tipped over the end line

43:55 Timeout, Palmyra

43:30 LD PC Bramley nearly has the tip at the stroke mark but the Palmyra defense gets the ball out of danger

37:12 Timeout, Palmyra

37:12 LD GOAL An Allie Bitting cross is deflected off Sprecher and Maddie O’Neill taps the waist-high rebound in to give Lower Dauphin a 1-0 lead

35:39 LD PC Morgan Bitting’s flip saved by Sprecher

33:15 LD PC Sprecher makes three saves!

32:30 LD PC Defensed by Jessica Dembrowski

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME The two teams were very tentative in the first term; let’s see what changes are made in the second

HALFTIME At the horn, the teams are goalless

26:40 LD PC Gina Bramley tops Bizak’s shot just wide!

26:00 LD PC Aliza Bizak shot is saved

22:00 LD PC Bouncy shot saved by Cheyenne Sprecher, the Palmyra goalie

15:00 Lots of poking and prodding, but neither team can get off a good-enough shot

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME The teams are warming up under overcast skies with the temperatures about 50 degrees

PREGAME An interesting sidebar to this game is the fact that Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello is back on the sidelines after a car crash that has sidelined her for a few games. The crash not only resulted in a fractured kneecap, but in the birth of her daughter

PREGAME The loser of this game gets District 6 champ Mifflin County, then perhaps the champs of Districts 11 (Stroudsburg or Emmaus) and/or District 1 (Unionville or Central Bucks South are in that half of the bracket; it could be a Murderers’ Row of teams for the loser of this game

PREGAME The winner of this game faces the sixth-place finisher in the District 1 Tournament (Phoenixville) in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA Tournament. It’s not an easy game because Bailey Quinn is amongst the nation’s leading scorers

PREGAME Palmyra is 20-1 on the season, while Lower Dauphin is 22-1. They are tied for the No. 6 ranking in the TopOfTheCircle.con Top 10

PREGAME Back at Henry Hershey Field for the 3-AAA title match between Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) and Palmyra (Pa.)

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