REIFFTON >> Last season, Palmyra’s draw with Penn Manor crowned them co-champions in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. A year later, the opportunity to go back to the state title presented itself to the District 3 champions.
They made the most of it.
On a misty November night at Don Thomas Stadium, the Cougars punched their ticket back to the state championship, blanking Downingtown East 3-0 in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals on Wednesday.
Palmyra will face the District 11 champion Emmaus at the Zephyr Sports Complex on Saturday, at 2 p.m.
For Downingtown East, the best season in program’s history ended with a valiant effort.
“They played with a lot of heart and they played as a team tonight,” East coach Stephanie Bullock said. “That’s been a big thing for us all season, playing as a team and playing as a unit. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to coach. It was a great run and an amazing season.”
Downingtown East (22-3), the second place team from District 1, controlled the pace for the majority of the opening 30 minutes, out shooting their opponent 7-4 and having six penalty corners compared to Palmyra’s zero. However it was Palmyra (25-2) who scored the half’s only goal.
“We had a lot of good chances that we didn’t capitalize on,” senior captain Kallie Gray said. “But we knew we were the underdog, and we knew we had nothing to lose and I was really proud of the way our team came out fighting.”
With 14 minutes left in the stanza, Palmyra’s Kiley Gallagher corralled the ball inside the circle and ripped it past East’s goalie Claire Riley to take a 1-0 lead.
“At the end of the day it’s about who can get it in the cage,” Bullock said. “We weren’t able to finish off some plays but overall I thought we played a really good game. We were in it.”
In the second half, Palmyra poured on the pressure. In the opening-eight minutes, they out shot East 5-0. The Cougars from Central Pennsylvania extended their lead to 2-0 when Carli Herman went top shelf on Riley on a penalty shot.
10 minutes later Gallagher struck again. The senior forward sprung free and buried a shot to the left to solidify the 3-0 final.
“They’re a really good team,” senior captain Claire Webb said. “It was a lot of fun playing against great competition. I thought it was a closer game than the score indicated.”
East finished as Ches-Mont League National Division champions and runner-up in the District 1 Class AAA tournament.
“It was awesome to make school history,” senior captain Cassie Hunter said. “I know that is going to stick with all of us forever. We’re always going to have these great memories and be able to look back on them.”
Palmyra 3, Downingtown East 0
Downingtown East 0 0 – 0
Palmyra 1 2 – 3
Palmyra goals: Gallagher 2, Herman.
Goalie saves: Riley (DE) 12, Sprecher (P) 9.
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