There was a moment, during the final minute of Wyoming Seminary's victory over Holy Redeemer in the District 2 Class 2A field hockey semifinals, where the Blue Knights' coaching staff shared an embrace on the sideline.
Why not? Karen Klassner and her staff have never taken winning for granted, even while making Wyoming Seminary victories an art form.
We're happy we're both going. I think we'll represent the district very well, Klassner said of her team and District 2 champion Crestwood. The prize is four games from now. We may even meet again.
Sem (12-7-1) makes its third consecutive trip to the PIAA Tournament, playing District 11 champion Southern Lehigh (21-1) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Whitehall High School near Allentown.
The Blue Knights have the potential to make history this season. No team has won three consecutive PIAA championships. Not even District 11 Class 3A supersquad Emmaus, which has won 24 straight district titles. But it takes four wins to get a state title and first in the way is Southern Lehigh, a formidable opponent that has posted 20 shutouts this season.
Sem brings a 16-game state tournament winning streak into PIAA competition -- an unprecedented number. The names have changed from the past, but the lineup remains impressive.
We've had a lot of work to do, Klassner said. We have a lot of new faces. I'm happy to see their work pay off. Our kids have accomplished a lot this season.
Newcomer Morgan Malone leads the team in goals with 14, while Mallory Lefkowitz tops the Blue Knights in assists (11) and points (37). Goalie Hannah Dressler was perfect down the stretch last season.
Seniors Devin Holmes and Emily Granger again anchor the defense. Kristen Mericle and Marra Wagner patrol the midfield. Yet younger players, such as Alexis Quick, Tali Dressler and Rebecca Weinstock have emerged to play key minutes.
Not to be overlooked is District 2 champion Crestwood, which is back in the state tournament for the sixth time in seven years.
The Comets (19-2) play the fourth-place team from District 3, Hamburg (18-6), at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Harman-Geist Stadium in Hazleton. Crestwood was the top scoring team in the Wyoming Valley Conference and the best defensively.
We are being led by two great captains in Chandler Ackers and Rachael Ritz, Comets coach Elvetta Gemski said of the two seniors. They've led this group and held them all together.
That says a lot considering the depth of the squad, which has had 15 goal scorers this season.
New heroes have emerged almost on a weekly basis for Crestwood. Junior Marissa Surdy (19-9-47) was the team's top scorer, but each class is well represented on the offense. Ackers paces the seniors with eight goals, Casey Cole tops the sophomores with 10 goals, and Ashleigh Thomas leads the freshmen with 13 goals.
Meanwhile, sophomore Dallas Kendra has posted shutouts in 13 of her 21 games.
In all, six local teams will begin state tournament play Tuesday.
The field hockey trio from the Wyoming Valley Conference is completed by District 2 Class 3A champion Coughlin. The Crusaders (13-4) will play District 11 runner-up Stroudsburg (20-3) at Harman-Geist Stadium at 5 p.m.
Coughlin will also represent the area in boys soccer, facing District 4 champion Lewisburg (18-2-1) at Loyalsock High School near Williamsport at 7 p.m.
As the District 2 runner-up, Berwick's girls soccer team gets an early trip to Hersheypark Stadium, opening state tournament action against District 3 champion Trinity (21-3) at 5 p.m.
Holy Redeemer begins its annual run at a state championship at Dallas High School, where the Royals will play District 4 champion Wellsboro (18-4) at 5 p.m.
More PIAA previews