WHITEHALL >> Midway through the second half of Tuesday’s PIAA Class A field hockey semifinal, Oley Valley junior midfielder Hannah Beers listened as her coach called out to her from the sideline.
“She reminded me how much my teammates needed me,” recalled Beers of the words from head coach Tiffany Cappellano, “and told me to run toward the ball on offense.”
Just a few minutes later, Beers found herself running toward the ball. Only this time, it was to retrieve it from the cage after she deflected in the eventual game-winning goal in the Oley Valley’s 2-1 win over Lake Lehman inside Whitehall’s Zephyr Sports Complex.
“Just a little pep talk on the sideline,” said Cappellano with a laugh of her motivational words. “I demand a lot out of our players, but they all respond to it really well.”
“She can be tough on us,” said Beers of her coach, “but that’s really motivating for us and we respond to it really well. It’s gotten us this far.”
Tuesday’s win sends District 3 champion Oley Valley (26-0) into Saturday’s state championship game against the winner of Moravian Academy, a 4-0 winner over Holy Redeemer in the other semifinal. It will be the Lynx first state championship game appearance since losing to Palmyra for the Class AA title in 2005. Oley last won states in 2000 with a win over Lancaster Mennonite.
Pitting two previously-unbeaten teams against one another Tuesday night, Lake Lehman (20-1-1) was easily the toughest competition Oley had faced to date.
Senior forward Carey-Anne Keiper opened it up for the Black Knights, flicking one into the cage hot off the stick of Makayla Adams just over 17 minutes in.
Suddenly Oley, a team that had only allowed nine goals against all season, found itself trailing on the scoreboard. Clearly, a place the Lynx hadn’t been much all season.
“You could kind of see the shock value on our faces,” said Cappellano, “but we never lost composure. The girls knew there was still plenty of time left.”
Seven minutes later, Sam Buzalewski, a Wake Forest commit, rang a bullet off the wood inside the Lehman cage to even it back up at 1-1.
“Our whole team wanted this, even when we got down early,” said Buzalewski.
After losing in the state semifinal round to end both her freshman and sophomore seasons, Tuesday’s win stood for one thing to the senior midfielder: redemption.
“We (the upperclassmen) played in this game two times before in our career and we finished on the opposite side of the scoreboard,” she said. “So we wanted to prove this one to ourselves.”
From the other sideline, Lake Lehman head coach Jean Lipski saw her team suffer its first loss since last season’s PIAA-AA opening-round game.
“This was what a state semifinal should be,” said Lehman head coach Jean Lipski. “Both teams played exceptionally well. We had our opportunities, just couldn’t punch them in.”
Oley Valley keeper Caitlin Drobek held a pretty peaceful first half, where she only faced Keiper’s goal as the lone shot on goal. She was tested throughout the final minutes of regulation, though, where she turned away three saves. Junior midfielder Becca Heffner came up with a remarkable defensive save in the final minute to seal it.
Turn The Corner
Admittedly, one of Cappellano’s biggest pet-peeves is when her team posts more corners than it does shots on goal. Tuesday was no exception, with the Lynx earning 14 penalty corners to only seven shots on the cage.
“There are definitely things that we need to work on still,” she said. “Seven shots on 14 corners doesn’t sound too good. So we’ll enjoy this win now, but we’ve got a lot to do still to get ready for Saturday.”
The Lynx have already put together quite an impressive resume this season: the Berks Conference crown, the District 3 title and an undefeated record. What would be the perfect way to wrap it up?
“Going out a state champion would be a great way to end our season, and a lot of our careers,” said Buzalewski. “Our goal from preseason was to try and go undefeated and win states. Saturday is our chance.”