By Bill Rudick
CAERNARVON—After watching Donegal blow past AACA rival Mount St Joe’s by a 10-1 count, the Villa Maria field hockey team went to work on a blow-out victory of its own. The Hurricanes posted three first half goals and added another pair in the second to knock off District 4 champ Selinsgrove 5-1 in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA, Class AA tournament.
The victory sets up a re-match of last year’s PIAA, Class AA semi-finals against Donegal this coming Tuesday, at a site and time to be determined.
“I think we’ve been playing better,” said Hurricanes goalie Danielle Acuna. “It’s all about a mindset. When we’ve got the right mindset, our passes are sharper, and we just work as a team. We all know we have the skill and ability to go far. We just have to play that way. I can’t wait to play the next round.”
The Hurricanes were simply dominant in the early going. Not only did Selinsgrove fail to bring the ball across midfield over the first ten minutes, most of the action took place inside 30 yards of the cage. But despite several chances, the game was scoreless until just over ten minutes in.
Hannah Miller sent a nice cross over to Annina Iacobucci, and Iacabucci slammed it home for the 1-0 lead.
“I just happened to be there in the right spot,” said Iacobucci. “We did a great job moving the ball inside the circle and someone just gave me a great ball, and I put it in.”
Barely thirty seconds later, the Hurricanes were awarded a penalty corner, and once again were pressuring Selinsgrove goalie Megan Kahn. Eventually, Kahn was called for a foul, and Villa awarded a penalty stroke. Iacobucci left no doubt on the stroke, sending a rocket into the back of the cage.
“We practice penalty strokes all the time,” said Iacobucci. “Making or stopping a stroke can mean the difference in a game. I was nervous setting up, but confident I was going to make it.”
The penalty stroke actually seemed to energize the Seals, as they began their first serious offense threats of the game. Selinsgove began to pepper Acuna with shots, and forced five penalty corners over a five minutes span. But Acuna made some spectacular saves, and she and her defensive teammates weathered the storm unscathed.
“Having to defend so many corners like that can be a little scary,” said Acuna. “But we all know we have each other’s backs, and were feeling very secure in what we were doing and that we’d be fine in the end.”
What mattered most, though, was that the zero stayed on the Seals’ side of the board.
“We had gotten a little sloppy there,” said Villa coach Daan Polders. “But Danielle and the defense did a good job bailing us out, and I thought we solidified our play after that.”
Mary Harkins made it a 3-0 Hurricane lead by halftime, taking a pass from Lindsay Dickinson and scoring on a reverse, then the Hurricanes put the game away with second half goals from Jen Finley and Emily Doyle.
Selinsgrove’s lone score came with 11:30 to play, when Jessica Smith connected unassisted.
There will be little time to celebrate the win, though, as the Hurricanes must now gear up for what is sure to be an electric game against Donegal, with a chance to reach the state championship game for the fifth time in six years. Last year’s semi-final match-up was a doozy, with the Hurricanes escaping with a 5-4 win.
“That’s what field hockey is all about,” said Polders. “Those are the games that are fun, when two good teams battle it out. I want to play games like that, and I want to see the players get to play games like that. You want to play in those games that are a real challenge.”
Selinsgrove 0 1 –1
Villa Maria 3 2 –5
Villa Maria—Iacobucci (2), Harkins, Finley, Doyle
Goalie Saves–Kahn (SG) 11, Acuna (VM) 5
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