Golden goal

Wildcats mount strong first-half attack

Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Greenwood’s Grace Lesh, left, defends Wyoming Seminary’s Alicia Carr in Saturday’s title contest.

WHITE HALL — Greenwood coach Kent Houser was aware of the history and tradition that Wyoming Seminary had heading into the PIAA Class A field hockey state championship Saturday morning.

He also knew none of that mattered when the two teams showed up to the game at the Zephyr Complex in White Hall.

That attitude trickled down to the players, and it was apparent in a 2-1 win over the Blue Knights to capture the school’s first state title in any team sport.

“It’s a new world, and that’s the way we always look at the season,” Houser said. “It doesn’t matter what you did last year, the year before or five years ago, it’s about what you’re doing today, and I think we played as good of a schedule as anybody has in preparation for this — and I think it showed.”

The Wildcats’ recipe was to strike early and play strong defense to make sure the Blue Knights earned everything they got.

Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Greenwood’s Paityn Wirth, front, winds up to strike a ball at the Wyoming Seminary goal. Hailey Womer is alongside the goal looking for a chance to tip one in. Wirth had the Wildcats’ — and the game’s — first goal.

It worked.

The Wildcats were on the attack for majority of the first half, and a last-minute goal (literally) just before halftime proved to be the difference in the game.

The heroic moment came just when Courtney Fleisher rocketed a shot into a mass of Wildcats and Blue Knights in front of Wyoming Seminary goalkeeper Mia Magnotta. The ball had been knocked around some before freshman Leah Bryner found some space in front of the cage to put the Wildcats up for good, with 43 seconds to go until the break.

“We played well, particularly in the first half,” Houser said. “Fortunately, we took advantage of our first half, got ourselves the lead and our defense which has been so stout all year, particularly going into the playoffs came through once again for us.”

The Wildcats played exceptional defense when they had to as well, but arguably none bigger than when the Blue Knights were on the move late in the game and Greenwood was forced to play a couple of minutes outnumbered due to a two-minute card — issued to arguably its best player, no less.

The Wildcats survived the scare and when the playing field became even, were able to break away from the area around their own cage and moved up the field, reducing a good chunk of time off the clock and forcing the Blue Knights to play uncharacteristic field hockey in a rash attempt to force overtime.

“Fortunately we’ve been working on people getting carded and how to adjust to it,” Houser said with a laugh. “(We worked on) how we want to adjust our formation and Courtney got us in the right places there, so we at least had a sense of where we were and what we were supposed to be doing.”

Wyoming Seminary showed that it was capable of getting the ball and quickly establishing an offensive attack. That’s exactly what happened when it tied the game late in the first half.

Despite Greenwood keeping the Blue Knights on their toes for much of the half, Wyoming Seminary got much-needed separation, eventually leading to a corner. Future Nittany Lion Aubry Mytych made a heads-up play coming off an exceptional diving save by Wildcats’ goalkeeper Kelsey Sheaffer.

Houser credits the strong play from both goalkeepers for making it feel like they were playing in a state championship game.

“We got some quality shots on (Magnotta), but I think Kelsey really had a great game for us,” he said. “I mean it was a state championship game, and I think goalkeeping was at a state championship level.”

But Mytych evened the score inside the five-minute mark when she was able to take a deflected ball and lift it over Sheaffer into the top corner of the goal.

Mytych’s future teammate at Penn State, Paityn Wirth, got the game’s scoring going early and set the tempo for what much of the first half would look like.

Wirth was setup by a Grace Lesh corner, and got Magnotta right she wanted, tucking the ball in the cage before 10 minutes had run off the clock.

Greenwood outgained Wyoming Seminary with 14 corners — 10 in the first half — to the Blue Knights’ six. The Wildcats outshot the Blue Knights, 11-6.

Houser said this outcome to the season was something he saw as a possibility as far back as training camp.

“The things we talked about were we earned our way here, we’re as good as anybody else,” he said. “The last thing I said to them before we got off the bus was ‘when we started practice in August, this is exactly where I thought we would be today.'”

Greenwood 2, Wyoming Seminary 1

First half

G – Paityn Wirth (Grace Lesh), 23:03; WS – Aubry Mytych, 4:32; G – Leah Bryner (Courtney Fleisher), 0:43.2.

Shots: G 11-6. Corners: G 14-6. Saves: WS- 9 (Mia Magnotta), G-5 (Kelsey Sheaffer)