While the other team was adorned with gold medals and a state championship trophy that could have been theirs, Kelsey Reznick and her Wyoming Seminary field hockey teammates absorbed the ceremony with envy.
Then they vowed to carry that memory into next year.
“We definitely won’t forget this feeling,” said junior forward Aubrey Mytych, who scored Sem’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss Saturday to Greenwood in the PIAA Class A championship game. “We will not forget how it feels to finish in second place.”
Neither will Wyoming Valley West.
The Spartans may have surprised the rest of the state by coming so close and scoring the only goal allowed in the Class 2A state tournament by powerful Villa Maria Academy, but a tough 2-1 defeat in the finals didn’t sit well with them.
“We didn’t get the result we were looking for,” said Valley West junior forward Karaline Stelma, who hit a first-half goal in Saturday’s title game to pull her team even with a Hurricanes team making its third trip to the finals in four years. “But they had been here before. This was our first run at states.”
The thing is, both District 2 champions, who finished 1-2 at the top of the Wyoming Valley Conference, could very well be back next season.
While Wyoming Seminary will graduate dynamic defenders Emily Sims and Camryn Litjens as well as Syracuse-bound, play-making midfielder Alicia Carr, most of the key pieces from a Blue Knights team that finished 22-3, won the WVC Division 1 and District 2 Class A titles and returned to the state playoffs for the first time since the school won the 2013 PIAA Class 2A title, will be back.
With a vengeance.
That includes Mytych, the team’s top overall and playoff point producer and goal scorer and Reznick, a tenacious defender who neutralized some of the top high school scorers in the state during the postseason. Dangerous shooting midfielder Hannah Maxwell and freshman goalie Mia Magnotta, who came up with key saves while growing up in the playoffs, should also get stronger from their first trip to the state finals.
“What I’m most proud of is, we came together as a team,” Reznick, a Sem co-captain as a junior this season, said. “Everybody said we just have a bunch of talented players. But we came together, and players used their talents to help each other. And we had an amazing season.”
It was a season that restored Sem’s hopes of winning a seventh state title for the school, even if the Blue Knights had to settle for silver this year.
“Being honest with ourselves, at the beginning of the season, I didn’t think we’d be here,” Wyoming Seminary coach Karen Klassner said. “The kids played very well to get here.
It couldn’t have gone much better for Valley West.
While Sem had to wait four years between its eighth state title appearance and its ninth, Valley West had waited 15 years to make the school’s second trip to a PIAA championship.
The Spartans got there with grit, determination and steely resolve. Along the way, Valley West won its second straight District 2 Class 2A title and took out Donegal, the nation’s No. 3 team according to Max Field Hockey, with a dramatic, 1-0 victory in the final seconds of the state semifinal.
Then the Spartans finished by fighting to the finish with a vaunted Villa Maria team that decimated its previous three state opponents by an average score of 8-0.
“Well, obviously, I hate losing,” said defender Madison Woods. “But I have to remember it was a great accomplishment for us to make it this far in the first place.”
The Spartans will lose Woods, a senior who signed a letter-of-intent to play for Penn next season, along with some other big pieces from the second team to play in a state final in school history. Mercedes Jasterzenski, headed to Hofstra, was a steady scorer and stick-handler and Bloomsburg-bound Foto Tsioles flooded the circle with goals. Fellow outgoing senior starters Callie Edwards, a defender, Irelynd Sullivan, a midfielder and goalie Nikki Hartzel helped form the heart of a team that kept finding ways to win.
But there’s plenty of hope on the horizon, with team-leading scorer Cameron Forgash and defender Jillian Bonczewski, both freshmen this year, scorers Stelma, a junior and Rina Tsioles (Foto’s sophomore sister), junior defender Emily Latoski and sophomore second-half goalie Sydney Rusnock all anxious to get back at it.
“I felt like we still had a chance, no matter what,” Stelma said. “We tried to keep pushing and keep trying.”
That’s the feeling they’ll best remember.
“Our coaching staff was really proud of the girls through the entire season,” Valley West coach Linda Fithian said. “Through all these games, they’ve been playing for each other. Their teamwork has been excellent.”