LANCASTER, Pa. — The umpire’s whistle sounded to start the clock in the 52nd minute of play of the 2016 Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game between two unbeaten and loaded teams: defending L-L champion Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) and Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.).
Donegal had the ball coming out of a timeout on an offensive penalty corner chance. The green-clad Indian players took a breath as Amanda Beck took her time setting her feet and stick getting ready for the corner insert.
After the clock ran a few seconds, Beck slung the ball towards sophomore Mackenzie Allessie, the Indians’ leading scorer and one of the country’s leading goal-scorers heading into this week. Allessie had been fighting ball-control problems on the stick stop all game on the Lancaster Conestoga Valley (Pa.) turf, but on this occasion, she was able to maintain close control and pulled to the right, beating the flyer and yielding a yawning chasm of space between herself and Penn Manor goalkeeper Brit Hook.
An annoyed grunt could be heard from the Penn Manor bench the moment Allessie found the space. The metallic ping of the plastic ball off the back of the cage punctuated the air. The crowd erupted.
“We figured that, if we could hit the ball hard enough, we could get enough traffic and tippers at goal,” Allessie said. “It was just a matter of executing it. We had trouble doing it earlier, but we just had to do it.”
Allessie’s goal was the difference in the Indians’ 1-0 win over Penn Manor. But it was more than just a game: it was a happening, bringing a sizable crowd to Buckskin Field. Whereas most conference championships played before District play in Pennsylvania feature teams with more or less the same size, this game featured one of the major contenders for PIAA Class AAA honors in Penn Manor, against Class AA contender Donegal. Five of the players on the field are on some sort of U.S. youth national team squad and could form the basis for the senior women’s national team during the 2020s.
The stars shone on both sides, but Donegal’s stars shone a little brighter. Katie Jean, the junior goalie, was magnificent in the goal cage, sliding to make stops in the 43rd and 49th minute of play as the Penn Manor corner attack unit adjusted its angles in order to try to create mismatches and space.
“I wasn’t focusing on what Penn Manor was doing,” Jean said. “I was making sure that our team was focusing on what we needed to do.”
“Isn’t she something?” said Penn Manor head coach Matt Soto. “When you have someone like that, it definitely makes a difference.”
The Comets, however, had many of their best chances in open play. Soto is blessed with a number of incredibly quick and fit players who disrupt defenses with their pace. About 22 minutes into the game, winger Alyssa Schriver had an open backhander on the left wing after taking advantage of some space, but Jean was equal.
And when Jean wasn’t denying Comet chances, fullback Rachel Robinson was. Despite playing with a heavy knee brace, she showed skill and desire in breaking up opposing chances. Robinson made a 70-yard redefend to cut out a Penn Manor scoring chance after a Donegal penalty corner. She also made the crowd roar on more than one occasion by using field hockey’s version of the “elastico” to eliminate high pressure.
“Oh, I heard them. The support we have is unbelievable,” said Robinson, late a member of the United States U-19 national team. “Playing with this team is absolutely amazing.”
DONEGAL (21-0) 0 – 1 — 1
PENN MANOR (20-1) 0 – 0 — 0
D: Mackenzie Allessie (Amanda Beck), pc, 52nd minute
Shots — D: 5; PM: 11. Saves — D: Katie Jean 11; PM: Brit Hook 4.
FULL TIME That’s all for now; good night and good hockey
FULL TIME The stars were out for this evening’s contest, and the Indians’ stars — Katie Jean, Mackenzie Allessie, and Rachel Robinson — shone just a little brighter. Spare a thought for Penn Manor, who played brilliantly throughout, but could not find the touch around goal
FULL TIME The siren goes with Donegal winning 1-0
59:30 Allessie takes the ball to the corner flag
57:38 Brooke DeBerdine is off the pitch with angry cut on her face. The trainers are working feverishly to get her back in
56:48 DHS GREEN Beck is off for the push; can Penn Manor take advantage of this situation?
56:35 PM PC Raised ball ends the corner
56:20 TIMEOUT, PENN MANOR
56:20 PM PC
55:39 PM PC Brooke DeBerdine’s hard pass misses everyone
55:09 PM PC Brooklyn corner again; Jean is down but no Comet can get the touch on it
51:34 DHS PC and GOAL Allessie takes Amanda Beck’s insert, beats the flyer, and finds net! Indians lead 1-0
50:59 TIMEOUT, DONEGAL Let’s see what Jessica Shellenberger has drawn up here
50:59 DHS PC
48:21 PM PC Brooklyn-side corner to Brooke DeBerdine who throws it to the open left wing, but Jean is equal!
48:21 TIMEOUT, PENN MANOR. Will this corner come from the training ground?
48:21 PM PC
44:30 DHS PC Rachel Overlander hits the post! That was the best chance of this frenetic second half!
44:10 DHS PC Allessie tackled by DeBerdine!
43:40 PM PC Cleared by Allessie!
43:20 PM PC Defensed by Allaura Bohan
42:00 PM PC Option-left is denied by a sliding Jean!
40:55 DHS PC Allessie shoots; Hook with the denial
38:00 DHS PC Robinson shot deflected by Emma DeBerdine
36:45 PM PC Brooke DeBerdine’s shot deflected in the circle by Gabby Bitts just past the post!
35:00 PM PC The insert is fluffed
32:00 PM PC Brooke DeBerdine’s shot is saved by Jean and cleared by Allessie
30:00 The second half is under way
HALFTIME The half was pretty well-played, but I think the teams are pressing a bit and are suceptible to physical errors. Giveaways and a lack of execution on corners are marking this half
HALFTIME The siren goes with the game goalless
29:14 PM PC Cleared by Robinson!
27:45 DHS PC Allessie mistraps, Robinson rescues for Allessie to shoot; ball goes off a Comet leg for a free-in from the 23
27:00 DHS PC Allessie shoots; Brit Hook says no
22:00 Alyssa Schriver swoops in off the Penn Manor left wing and her backhander is snuffed out by Jean!
20:19 TIMEOUT, DONEGAL
15:50 PM PC Defensed by Robinson!
14:50 Penn Manor runs a snowbird but Robinson, knee brace and all, cuts out the scoring chance for Donegal with a breathtaking sprint!
14:30 DHS PC Allessie misses the set; Grace Miller rescues the ball but no Indian shot results
13:45 DHS PC Allessie pops a backhander that is saved
10:58 DHS GREEN And now Allessie is off the pitch; how will the game change with nine outfielders per side?
10:38 PM GREEN Brooke DeBerdine is off for two minutes
9:40 PM PC Jean makes two stops! She is having a good game thus far
7:15 PM PC Brooke DeBerdine’s shot saved by Jean!
6:30 PM PC Defensed by Allessie
2:00 PM PC Option-left is cleared by Allessie
1:30 PM PC Defensed by Allessie; will re-rack
0:00 The game is on
PREGAME Donegal is in the green with white numbers; Penn Manor is in the white with navy numbers and kilts
PREGAME The teams are warming up under cirrus clouds, temperatures around 71; there is a 30 percent chance of rain
PREGAME The key to this game is going to be which team defense is able to hold their space and deny passing lanes. This could be a goalfest if the defenses don’t clamp down
PREGAME Yet, this is the closest thing you may get to a Pennsylvania Tournament of Champions. The two sides are contenders for state honors later this year, and this is a great test
PREGAME This game is an odd quirk in the schedule. This tournament does not affect seeding for the District 3 tourney; Penn Manor is in AAA, and Donegal is in AA
PREGAME Donegal is led by sophomore Mackenzie Allessie, goalie Katie Jean, and defender Rachel Robinson
PREGAME Penn Manor is led by sophomore Emma DeBerdine and her sister Brooke, a senior
PREGAME Both teams are 20-0 on the season; Donegal is No. 2 in the TopOfTheCircle Top 10; Penn Manor is No. 4
PREGAME Hello and welcome to Lancaster Conestoga Valley (Pa.) for the Lancaster-Lebanon League final this evening between Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) and Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)