Quarterfinals next for two
LEWISTOWN — And then there were eight.
The PIAA Class A field hockey quarterfinals have a definite local flavor thanks to Greenwood and Belleville Mennonite. Both fought past difficult challenges in the opening round to move on to play Saturday afternoon for a crack at the final four and a potential showdown.
The Wildcats (20-3) took care of Gwynedd Mercy 3-1 in the first round to earn a shot at Moravian Academy, while Belleville Mennonite (15-5) defeated Ellis School 2-1 and now faces Holy Redeemer in the quarterfinals.
Greenwood plays at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lower Dauphin Middle School. An hour later, the Thunder take the field at Central Columbia High School.
Moravian Academy, the District 11 champion, ran roughshod over District 4 runner-up Bloomsburg in the first round. The Lions are 22-1 on the season with their lone loss coming to Class 3A Parkland. They have outscored opponents by an impressive 125-13 margin with 15 shutouts. Mayv Clune leads Moravian with 35 goals and 18 assists.
Greenwood coach Kent Houser knows his girls will have their hands full with Moravian, which lost to Villa Maria in the Class 2A quarterfinals last year (at the time, the smaller of two classifications).
“I don’t know much else about them,” Houser said. “Obviously, we have to keep the Clune girl under some control. We are going to have to be more aggressive, take advantage of our opportunities and get the ball in the cage.”
Paityn Wirth led the Wildcats with two goals while Maddy Pyle collected a goal and an assist against Gwynedd Mercy. Nikki Willi was solid in goal.
“Gwynedd Mercy came out strong but Nikki Willi kept us in the game in the first half. We got more aggressive in the second half and turned the game around. We need a better start against Moravian,” Houser said. “We know we have to take it one game at a time. I don’t think anyone is too nervous. We just have to get to the next game and perform at our best.”
Belleville Mennonite faces the Royals (15-1), the runner-up in District 2, who are coming off their first win in the PIAA tournament, which came on a Kayla Kruk overtime goal for the 2-1 victory over Boiling Springs. The Thunder, the little team that could, advanced to their first PIAA quarterfinal berth since 2007 and look to continue the momentum this squad of only 11 players has built.
“From what we’ve heard they sound like an offensive-minded team. In their last game both of their goals were scored and assisted by the same two players, so we know we need to mark tight on that pair,” Belleville Mennonite coach Morgan Foote said. “In what I’ve found, it sounds like they’ve had less than 10 goals scored against them all year so we’re going to have to take advantage of every offensive possession we have.
“We have to come out playing our very best game. If we come out flat, we’ll be in trouble,” she said. “We’ve been preparing our goalie (Rachel Sunderland) for more action than she has seen recently. We can’t afford any cheap goals against us so our entire defense needs to be ready.”
History could be in the making for the Thunder on Saturday. A win and they will be the first team from Mifflin County to make the PIAA semifinals in field hockey.
“The team is excited to be in the top eight. I think the whole team agreed we definitely didn’t play our finest game on Tuesday which makes it a little bit harder to celebrate,” Foote said. “But we’re still incredibly happy to have pulled out a win. I think the team is ready to play again and show everyone their true talent.”
Notes: Greenwood and fellow Tri-Valley League team Newport remain alive in the tournament. Line Mountain, which won District 4, was defeated in the first round. … Belleville Mennonite is playing at the same site where Greenwood suffered a stunning loss to District 2 powerhouse Crestwood a year ago. The Comets are in Class 2A this year under the new system. … Four of the eight remaining teams in Class A are not district champions. Both Greenwood and Belleville Mennonite defeated a district champ to advance. Districts 2 and 3 account for five of the teams still playing.