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Nov. 15, 2017 — Where streaks go to die

Last night, the longest field hockey win streak in the history of Pennsylvania ended at 81 games, as Emmaus (Pa.) was defeated 3-1 by Downingtown (Pa.) West in the semifinal round of the PIAA Class AAA championship.

Pennsylvania, it seems, is the place where all field hockey win streaks go to die. Given the high level of competition within the state, any game is a risk for defeat. And there’s also the trend over the last 40 years of PIAA competition, which states that no team has ever won three straight state field hockey championships.

And that scenario, as of this morning, still remains: all three defending champions are gone.

I guess a foreshadowing of all this occurred three weeks ago in the quarterfinal of the 3-AAA tournament, when Palmyra (Pa.), the last team to beat Emmaus until last night, was eliminated. Palmyra was looking for a fourth straight trip to the state final, but were beaten by the nation’s No. 1 team, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.).

Then there was last Saturday, when defending Class A champion Bethlehem Moravian Academy (Pa.) was ousted by Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.). Now, Greenwood is an interesting story unto itself. The school represents a bucolic village of 673 people along the banks of the Juniata River, although it also takes in students from the neighboring townships of Liverpool,. Tuscarora, and Greenwood.

The coach at Greenwood is Kent Houser, who has been coaching for more than three decades, amassing more than 1,000 wins coaching the softball, boys’ basketball, and field hockey teams. The only thing missing in that career is a state championship, and Saturday will be Houser’s first experience in a state final in any sport.

Also making her debut in the state final is Elizabeth Bradley, the head coach of Downingtown West. The Whippets have always been in the headwaters of District 1 competition, but this year have been outstanding from the opening weekend, beating Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) to open the season, then beating both Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) at the end.

Oddly enough, it has been a while since a public-school team from District 1 has made the state final; since 2002, when a Buckingham Central Bucks East (Pa.) team led by future U.S. national team captain Lauren Crandall beat an Emmaus team that had broken the national record for goals scored 1-0 in the final two minutes of play, only one other public school team from the five-county Philadelphia area — Pennsburg Upper Perkiomen (Pa.) — has made a final.

And it was about that time when District 2 was making a significant presence in PIAA field hockey, with Lauren Powley, Kelsey Kolojejchick, Kat Sharkey, and Paige Selenski making the U.S. national team. This year, two legendary coaches bring back their teams to the state finals. Linda Fithian has Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.) one win away from winning the Class 2A final, and Karen Klassner has Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) one win from winning the Class 1A title.

Should be an interesting tripleheader.

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