By Bill Rudick
CAERNARVON—Much like last year’s semi-final round game between Donegal and Villa Maria, this year’s version featured two great, aggressive field hockey teams battling hard all the way for a chance to play in the state championship game.
Also like last year, the final score was 4-3. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, this time it was the Indians that came out on top after a late goal forced overtime, and a quick score in the extra period. Donegal will now move on to play Villa’s AACA rival, Merion Mercy, for the PIAA, Class AA field hockey crown at noon this Saturday at Whitehall-Coplay.
“The only thing we can blame ourselves for is maybe not keeping up the intensity in the final seconds of the game,” said Villa coach Daan Polders. “But I thought we played a good game, and there’s no reason to hang our heads.”
Donegal, the District 3 champs, earned their first-ever slot in the title game after being taken down to the wire. Sophomore sensation MacKenzie Alessie scored the second goal of a hat trick with just 37 ticks left on the clock to force overtime, then notched the game winner a mere 1:05 into the seven-on-seven overtime period.
“When it was still 2-2 with about twelve minutes left, I thought for sure we would be going to overtime,” said Donegal coach Jessica Schellenberger. “But then they scored. To pull it out in the end like that, I’m almost in shock.”
Villa opened the scoring after a back-and-forth opening five minutes, converting on a penalty corner. Jen Finley put the ball in play on the insert, and sent a ball in to Lindsay Dickinson at the top of the circle. Dickinson rifled a shot past Donegal goalie Katie Jean for the 1-0 lead.
The Indians tied it six minutes later when Rachel Overlander assisted on a Cassy Satuffer goal, and the 1-1 score stood at halftime, thanks in no small part to a huge defensive save from Donegal back Rachel Robinson that stopped a bullet from Annina Iacobucci from finding its way into the cage.
Eight minutes into the second half, Alessie notched her first goal of the day to make it 2-1, but Villa answered right back on another goal from Dickinson.
Awarded a corner with 7:21 to play, Iacobucci found the ball in a crowd, and let looses with a lifted shot that cleared Jean, but hit the top cross bar. An alert Emily Doyle got a hold of it and tapped it in for the 2-2 advantage with just 6:50 to play.
“There were some times in regulation where Villa did a great job taking (Alessie) out of the game, so we tried some different things,” said Schellenberger. “But in those final minutes and overtime, there was no doubt we were going to get the ball to MacKenzie.”
The statistical battle reflects the final result. The two teams forced an identical eight penalty corners. Donegal held a slight advantage in shots on goal, 12-10, and came out ahead in the only statistic that actually matters, four goals to three.
Villa finishes the season with a record of 21-3, and further cements their standing as one of the top field hockey programs in the state.
“The result we were hoping for was to come away from here with a victory and a chance to play for another state title, obviously,” said Polders. “But this has still been a good season, and a good season for hockey. I’ve always thought that quality comes ahead of quantity, but there were a lot more quality teams around this division this year, including the two teams here today.”
Villa Maria 1 2 0—3
Donegal 1 2 1 –4
Donegal—Stauffer , Alessie (3)
Villa Maria—Dickinson (2), Doyle
Goalie Saves: Acuna (VM) 8, Jean (DON) 5