’Cats deal with unknown in states

Sentinel file photo Greenwood’s Paityn Wirth (29) moves the ball in a District 3 playoff game in 2015.

MILLERSTOWN — Despite having more state-level coaching experience than all but a handful in his field, Greenwood field hockey coach Kent Houser enters this year’s PIAA Class A championship tournament dealing with the unknown.

The mystery wrapped around the enigma is Gwynedd Mercy, a 3-0 upset winner over top seed New Hope Solebury in the District 1 finals last week. The Monarchs (11-8) are a team Houser knows zero, zilch, nada about.

The veteran coach will learn in hurry when his Wildcats, third out of District 3, travel to Methacton High School for a first-round PIAA playoff contest. Action gets underway at 6 p.m. today.

“I know nothing about them. They were the fourth seed going, in that’s all I know. They beat New Hope Solebury twice in the past week,” Houser said. “I’d like to know a little bit about what they do but the truth is in hockey you just have to go play. We want to know how they run their set pieces and if they have a star player to look out for, but we can’t worry about all that. We have to go out, play our game, and do what we do best.”

Gwynedd Mercy, which captured its first district championship last week, held New Hope to three shots on the cage. The Monarchs countered with 16 shots and 18 penalty corners, while freshman Alden Bocella scored two goals.

Greenwood (19-3) lives by an attack style and loves to get corners. The Wildcats did just that in a District 3 semifinal against Boiling Springs with 18, but couldn’t convert any of those into goals. Houser feels his charges moved on from the loss and are ready to come out strong at states.

“We’ve lived on our corner game all year and that’s definitely a strong point for us. We just couldn’t get the ball in the cage against Boiling Springs and if we don’t we are in trouble,” Houser admitted. “I have to give their defense credit. We did turn it around and played with a lot more energy and attack in the second half. We put that game behind us and have already moved on. We are ready for states.”

Scoring machine Paityn Wirth paces the Wildcat offense with teammates Courtney Fleisher and Maddy Pyle. Defensively, keeper Nikki Willi anchors the defense.

“Paityn is a great player, one of the best in her class in the country. She has an awful lot of skill and athleticism, but you don’t win with just one player in field hockey. You need good effort from everybody,” Houser said. “On the other end, I’m thankful we have Nikki Willi, who’s been a starter four years in goal. She’s nice to have playing back there.”

According to Houser, the key for a Greenwood win is to start and maintain the aggressiveness that’s been the calling card of the team all season long.

“We have to attack, be aggressive and we haven’t been doing that lately. We have to get shots on goal and convert them into goals,” he said. “We have to be solid in our set pieces and just really be aggressive on our attack. That is the key to winning the game.”