EXETER >> Something changed in the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team during their run to the PIAA Class AAA playoffs this fall season.
They lost the ability to be intimidated.
The Wildcats went toe to toe with District 11 power Emmaus on Saturday afternoon, holding the opposition scoreless during the first half before Olivia Krogermeirer finally broke through on a corner try with 18 minutes remaining to give the Green Hornets a 1-0 win in the state quarterfinal round at Exeter High School.
“No, they weren’t intimidated at all,” said Owen J. Roberts head coach Amy Hoffman of her players. “They were excited to come out and play them (Emmaus) and take them on. We were excited and believed in them 100 percent. We had that confidence.”
The win sends two-time defending state champ Emmaus back to the semifinal round for the seventh consecutive season as the Hornets improved to an impressive 28-0 on the season and won their 82nd game in a row. It was also their 20th shutout of the season as they’ve allowed only seven goals against all year. Seeking its third straight title (and 12th since 1974), Emmaus will play Downingtown West — a 1-0 winner over Lower Dauphin — in next Tuesday’s semifinal.
Meanwhile, the loss ends Owen J. Roberts’ season at 17-9 overall, just a few days after the team picked up its first ever state playoff victory.
During the first half Saturday, Emmaus’ prowess of keeping its streaks alive was anything but set in stone. Both teams created their chances during the opening 30 minutes, with OJR taking a 4-3 shot advantage into the half.
Then, 12 minutes into the second half, Krogermeirer capped a corner try on a feed from Emily Ingalls to give the Golden Hornets their fifth shot on goal — and the most important one of the day.
“Our offense at times was our own Achilles heel,” said Emmaus head coach Sue Butz-Stavin. “We didn’t keep possession of the ball and anything that was off our stick, Owen J. took possession. It was a great effort. Both teams were getting some corners, and we finally finished one.”
Throughout the afternoon, OJR looked anything but the team that wearily fell to Methacton in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship last month. The Wildcats played aggressive, challenged every ball and clogged every passing crease to keep the potent Emmaus attack from settling in.
Cassie Mickelsavage came up with eight saves in the Owen J. Roberts cage. Much like she had been all season, she was the driving force and a commanding voice for the OJR defense all throughout the game. It was a much better showing, she admits, than the last time she had faced Emmaus.
“I had a reason to be kind of angry at them,” said Mickelsavage, referencing last year’s regular-season 6-0 loss against Emmaus. “This year I came out and said, ‘I don’t want that to happen again. Not at states.’ So it was all about pushing myself and keeping last season out of the back of my mind.”
Now, the Wildcats will shift focus to next season. They’ll graduate eight seniors from this year’s squad including the team’s leading scorer, Bridget Guinan and fellow forward, Sarah Garritano along with Mickelsavage and standout defender Riley Hanson. Seniors Rylie Hijosh and Kelsey Kilgallon were also key contributors for OJR’s midfield.
Even amid all the turnover, Hoffman says there is plenty of promise waiting in the ranks, especially with several members picking up state-level varsity experience.
“Now the girls have that taste in their mouths,” she said. “We know where we fell short this year. We’ve got a bunch of players coming back next season — we have a lot of younger ones who will be working in the offseason.
“Today kind of stinks, it’s never fun to lose. But these kids have a lot to be proud of.”