WHITEHALL—Well, one team or the other was going to see its unbeaten streak come to an end at the end of the PIAA Class AAA field hockey championship game between Penn Manor and Downingtown West.
The Whippets entered the contest a perfect 25-0, while the Comets sat at 27 wins without a defeat. Make it 28, as Penn Manor made a pair of first half goals stand up in the PIAA 3A final, handing West its first loss of the season, 2-0, and forcing them to settle for second place in arguably the best field hockey state in the country.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls and the phenomenal season we’ve had,” said West coach Liz Bradley. “We’ve had an amazing season, winning a district title and playing in a state championship game. We’re going to learn from this and come out stronger next year.”
Penn Manor, ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxFieldHockey.com, came out of the gates hard, and forced two penalty corners in the first three minutes of play. The Comets converted the second of the two, with Emma Derbedine getting the assist on a goal from Alyssa Shriver.
On the defensive side, Penn Manor couldn’t have played much better, limiting West’s trips inside the circle and holding the Whippets without a shot on goal or even a penalty corner in the first half.
But the West defense was playing just as well, and the score stood at 1-0 until just 40 second remained in the half and Deberdine collecting another assist, this time on a goal from Buranna Harsh.
“They had great speed as a team and number 16 (Deberdine) was all over,” said Bradley. “She tackled well and wherever the ball was she was there. They were beating us to the ball. We weren’t stepping in. We did not play the kind of hockey we can play, but Penn Manor is a very good team.”
The second half was much closer, and West began to create a few more opportunities for themselves, and they kept Penn Manor from any further scoring, but just couldn’t break through with a goal.
“The second half, the girls came out and were ready to give it all they had,” said Bradley. “But we just couldn’t capitalize on any of our offensive drives. When we were on our offensive attacks, we needed to get off a shot, or at least force a corner, and we just couldn’t do it. Hopefully getting this far gives the younger girls confidence to know they can play with the best. Hopefully we learn from this come out strong next year, working hard right from pre-season.”
The runner-up finish in no way diminishes what was an amazing season for Downingtown West. The Whippets went 25 games before seeing defeat, winning Ches-Mont and District 1 Championships along the way, the latter of which is the first in West program history.
For seniors Romea Riccardo and Taylor Orsi, it is the end of a great four years of hockey at West.
“I am really going to miss getting to play with my two sisters (Celina and Ciana), with our Dad (Jeff) coaching,” said Riccardo. “This is such a great team to play with. It’s been amazing to come so far, and with this team it has been incredible. I don’t think we played our best game today, but hopefully these girls will be back.”
Orsi will treasure the memories forever.
“This has been the best four years of my life,” said Orsi. “I love this team so much. That has been the best part of playing here—these are my best friends. We’ve all had so much fun together on and off the field. It was so great to have the kind of year we had. This isn’t how we wanted it to end, but you just have to accept it and recognize the great season we had.”
DWest 0 0 –0
Penn Manor 2 0 –2
Goals: Shriver, Harsh
Goalie Saves: Coker (DW) 9 Hook (PM) 1