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‘Sick’ New Hope-Solebury effort beats Sacred Heart for district field hockey title

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LOWER MORELAND >> New Hope-Solebury’s Sara Hayden didn’t want to come too close when she talked about her team’s victory in the District 1 Class A championship Thursday at Lower Moreland High School.

She was a little under the weather and didn’t have much voice left.

“Our entire team, basically, is sick,” she said. “Well, like 90 percent of us.”

It turns out that celebrating a District 1 championship is the perfect remedy for the Lions’ illnesses. Hayden, a junior, scored the game’s first goal off a pass from Lily Smith with 6:43 left in the first half.

“Last year we won districts against Gwynedd-Mercy, but we’ve never played Sacred Heart before, so that was really interesting,” Hayden said. “We had no idea what to expect coming in. We know that they play in a tough league (Catholic Academies) and they play against a lot of high-tempo teams.”

NHS earned the top seed in the district tournament because the Lions are impossible to score upon, let alone beat. The Lions have allowed one goal all season and that came in a 1-1 tie with Bicentennial League rival Jenkintown.

Meanwhile, Sacred Heart (8-12) had to fight just to make the dance. Also nicknamed the Lions, they were the No. 6 seed in the tournament and fought their way to the final. On the road to Lower Moreland, SH upset third-seeded Springfield (Montco) and No. 2 Jenkintown.

“We tried to disregard what their standing was in their league because we knew the teams they played were a lot harder than the team we’ve played,” Hayden said. “We kind of knew what some of their players were going to do, but overall we wanted to come out as intense as we possibly can be.”

Well, it worked. NHS controlled possession most of the way, even though they had difficulty getting clean shots on goalie Giggi Backe (three saves).

“We got a lot more confident as a team by playing and beating two good, strong teams in the playoffs,” SH senior Julia Flood said. “We were kind of the underdogs in this tournament, so the fact that we got all the way to the final just proves to ourselves and everyone else that we’re a good team.”

Goalie Elise Jones made one save to earn the shutout in net. Carolyn Thislewaite was among the standout performers on defense for New Hope-Solebury (18-0-1). Smith tallied New Hope-Solebury’s second goal midway through the second half.

Patty McNevin guides a Sacred Heart team that is looking ahead to the PIAA tournament.

“They grew a lot and they’ve learned to rely on each other,” she said. “We went into it knowing that we’ve never encountered them. We knew they were quick to the ball, so we just tried to play our passing game … and mark up defensively against them. We were a step away but I think we held the ball a little too long at times.”

The Lions received strong efforts from defenders Caitlin Hughes, Sara Terzian, Amanda Heilmann and Lily Flanagan.

“We’ve lean a lot on our defense,” McNevin said. “They’ve been remarkable and they play wonderfully together.”

Flood, Liz Franz and Sophie DiCocco were steady in the midfield. Dani Santora, Catie Gordon and Mary Lauren Franz excelled at forward.

Sacred is looking forward to doing some damage in the state tournament.

“I think we’re all equal on the team and it’s not just one position that carries the team,” Flood said. “We’re all together as a team and we all are putting in equal effort.

“It’s not over. We have a lot more time to prove ourselves.”

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