WHITEHALL -- Wyoming Seminary coach Karen Klassner, after her Blue Knights celebrated what they thought was the end of a classic state field hockey game against Southern Lehigh, exhaled her thoughts, or perhaps a plea for help.
It was the toughest battle yet for a Blue Knights squad on an unprecedented run, ending with a victory after two rounds of penalty strokes. Wyoming Seminary moves on after a 2-1 victory Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A field hockey tournament.
The victory gives Seminary 17 consecutive state playoff victories, a record unmatched in PIAA tournament play. This one was fraught with drama.
The Blue Knights lost a 1-0 lead to Southern Lehigh with 13:45 remaining. The teams traded shots in two 15-minute seven vs. seven overtimes without a score.
They each converted three of five penalty strokes in the first round, with Blue Knights goalkeeper Hannah Dressler and Spartans minder Katelyn Arnold – second in the country in career shutouts -- making lunging saves.
Southern Lehigh actually held leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 during strokes. Each time, the Blue Knights answered.
Finally, confusion set in as to whether the teams would endure another five-person round or go sudden victory. Thinking they were playing sudden victory, Sem (16-6-1) celebrated following Georgetown-bound senior Devin Holmes' slow-pitched goal, and after Dressler stoned the next shot with her foot.
The second referee clarified that the teams were going through all five strokers again, however. Klassner, with five state titles — including the last two in 2A -- and almost 600 career victories, allowed her mind to trail back to 1996, the last time a team of hers went to strokes in the state tournament.
A loss, of course.
I was going through chemotherapy, the 42-year coach said. That's why I remember it.
And yet, Tuesday night in Whitehall, over 2 hours and 20 minutes, she felt like she was watching her field hockey career play out before her.
Highs. Lows. Steals. Turnovers.
Finally, as sideline toes numbed and emotions scrambled, as parents, fans and two awaiting 3A teams rimmed the goal abutting the Zephyrs' football stadium, Dressler stopped the last Spartan stroker with her chest and pads.
Blue Knights 2, Spartans 1.
And it was OK to celebrate. For real.
Holmes' slow, sooo casual goal provided the margin.
That was kind of like a changeup in baseball, she said of her subtle flick. I knew we would win. We perform best under pressure. We've done that all season. It's grind time.
Her change-of-pace stroke upset the manic rhythm of the game. The up and down bursts were stopped by a slow trickle of what Holmes called a shot of deceit.
Southern Lehigh (21-2) ended another amazing season with Arnold, its all-everything goalkeeper, saving the game and season repeatedly with dives and swats and stick swipes.
Only once could the Spartans solve Dressler, one of six Sem seniors. On the Spartans' fourth penalty corner, Moisey inserted to Cailyn Breski, who fed Maria McDonald, who passed back to Breski in a give-and-go play. Breski fired her shot hard into the cage boards.
Spartan fans erupted the punctuation of a furious comeback attempt delivered.
But that only tied the game.
I thought they had the advantage going into seven-on-seven play because of their speed, said Klassner. And they are a senior-laden team with a lot of experience. Plus their goalie is fantastic.
Plus, Sem had lost both overtime games this season. Their lone tie never went to extra time.
The teams alternated threats in two overtimes. After two sudden-victory sessions, Seminary led in shots (12-8) and penalty corners (12-6), but they hadn't scored on Arnold since sophomore Alexis Quick tipped a rocket from the 25-yard line past Arnold 11 minutes into the contest. Quick had snuck behind a defender.
Seminary advances to face District 1 champion Villa Maria, a 3-2 winner over Palmyra, in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Second half: 1. SEM, Alexis Quick; 2. SOL, Cailyn Breski (Maria McDonald).
Strokes Round 1: SEM, Devin Holmes, Morgan Malone, Mallory Lefkowitz; SOL, McDonald, Moisey, Breski. Strokes Round 2: SEM, Malone, Holmes; SOL, McDonald.
Shots: SEM 12, SOL 8; Saves: SEM 6 (Hannah Dressler), SOL 9 (Katelyn Arnold); Corners: SEM 12, SOL 6.