EXETER TWP. >> Dock Mennonite Academy gave unbeaten Oley Valley about a strong a test as it’s faced in its undefeated season, but the Lynx held on for a well-earned 2-1 PIAA Class A first round victory on the turf Tuesday night at chilly Exeter High School.
“They’re a very strong team. They have speed, they very strong girls on the ball, especially in the center where they’re very individually skilled,” Oley coach Tiffany Cappellano said of the Pioneers, who came on strong in the second half and got a goal from Jill Bolton to create a tension-filled final two minutes. “We knew the second half was gonna be a tough one.
“(Dock) was gonna come out with a lot of energy and we knew we had to control it and make our tackles outside the circle. That way, we wouldn’t be giving up corners because we knew (Dock) could hit the ball hard.”
Oley’s defense played its best in the final moments, helping to preserve a first-round win that sends the the District Three Champion Lynx (24-0) to a state quarterfinal game against Newport, a 3-2 winner over Line Mountain, on Saturday.
After being down 2-0 at the break, the Pioneers (19-4) put a lot of pressure on in the second half, punctuated by Bolton’s goal with 2 minutes and 45 seconds left to play.
“That was a long time waiting,” said Bolton, a senior who will continue her playing career at Division 1 Liberty next year. “It was building. I wanted it, the whole team wanted it, and just to score on them was a big achievement. It was a great feeling.”
It was only the eighth goal allowed all season by powerful Oley, which has 17 shutouts to its credit. Dock found a way to break through the wall in the second half.
“The second half was awesome. I think it’s the best hockey we’ve played in a really long time,” Bolton said. “We put so much pressure on them, more than they knew what to do with.”
Oley held its composure, cleared the ball out with about a minute to go and kept it on the Pioneer half of the field until the final seconds ticked away.
“Defensively, the girls showed that they can hang on to a two-goal or one-goal lead and did a nice job of coming together, coming in with nice, low sticks,” Cappellano said, “and they were kind of denying the space.”
The Lynx seized early control with a goal by Sarah Beers less than 10 minutes in, then increased the margin to 2-0 on a score by Sophia Gladieux. Gladieux was marked closely the rest of the way, and for good reason.
“She’s got very quick hands and does a very good job of just maneuvering that ball through,” Cappellano said. “And her size helps as well because she’s nice and agile as well. Her feet are quick, her hands are quick, and she can rip a shot quick.”
The freshman duo of Beers and Gladieux helped give Oley a lead that would it would cling to tight in the final moments. Oley showed why it is in fact unbeaten, overcoming quite a strong challenge from Dock to remain that way.
“It was great to see,” Dock coach Michelle Waldspurger said of her team’s second-half play. “It was awesome to watch that. A lot of teams haven’t scored against them.”
The Pioneers reached states for the first time since 2008, winning their fourth Bicentennial Athletic League title along the way.
“I have three seniors — Jill Bolton, Emme Raieta and (goalie) Liz Wanamaker,” Waldspurger said, “and I wanna give a special ‘Thank You,’ to them. They had a phenomenal season.”
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