Villa Maria in state title rematch against Crestwood

MALVERN — When Crestwood and Villa Maria met in the 2012 PIAA Class AA field hockey championship, coaches Elvetta Gemski of the Comets and the Hurricanes’ Maurene Polley had a combined 80 years of experience, over 1,200 wins and six state titles. Crestwood captured the crown that day, 1-0, in overtime.

Fast forward two years, both programs are still at the top of the heap in Class AA and will square off once again for the state crown at the Zephyr Sports Complex in Whitehall-Coplay on Saturday at noon. But, neither Gemski nor Polley is still at the helm. Patsy Moratori took over for the Comets at the start of this season, while Daan Polders is calling the shots in his first year in charge of the Hurricanes.

“It is a compliment to the players of this program to be successful this year,’ said Polders. “They do all the work, work hard and we as a staff have tried to direct them and provide them with tools to be successful. We have seemed to be a good match which is key for success. That everything already came together in the first season is just a bonus. This happened to me also in 2012 with Colorado Academy (in Denver) and we are going to enjoy it again.’

Crestwood (23-0-1), the undefeated District 2 champion, is making its third straight appearance in the state finals, topping Villa in 2012, then falling to fellow District 2 foe Wyoming Seminary a year ago.

The lone blemish on their record came back on Sept. 26, a 1-1 tie with Stroudsburg. Crestwood reaches the finals following a 3-0 win over an Oley Valley squad that played Villa Maria (21-1-1) to a scoreless tie early in the season.

When the Comets are in and around the circle, they have often looked to junior forward Ashleigh Thomas, an Old Dominion recruit, who leads the Comets with eight goals in the postseason.

Senior Dallas Kendra minds the cage for Crestwood, and has three shutouts in the playoffs. The Comets have allowed just four goals against in six playoff games, while scoring 27.

“All I know about Crestwood is what I saw last Tuesday night (in the Comets’ semifinal win over Oley Valley),’ said Polders. “With that information we prepare ourselves to be successful on Saturday.’

District 1 champ Villa counters with a balanced attack that has seen seven different players score in six postseason games. Abby Siana kicked off the postseason run with four goals again Delco Christian in the district opener, and has added a pair since. Megan Vermeil, with a pair of goals in the semifinal win over Moravian Academy, is next in line with four, while Lindsay Dickinson (3), MaryCate Butler (2), Julia Giampetro (2), Amelia Iacobucci (2) and Samantha Hickey (1) have also found the back of the cage for the Hurricanes.

“We have a variety of goals scorers and we are all part of this,’ said Polders “It is about the team and not the individual and to be honest with you, I do not even know who scored most goals or has the most assists on the season so far. Our emphasis is to perform as a team and train like that. All players have their roles and are important and they are responsible for this.’

Goalie Erika Miller has proven she can handle the pressure when it comes her way, recording double-digit saves in three postseason games, and a total of 51 saves in the last six games. But the Villa defense has come on strong lately, limiting both shots on goal and penalty corners against.

“Erika Miller is a great goalkeeper who helps keep you in the games,’ said Polders. “But all the players stepped up during the postseason when you look at certain numbers like the limited corners against us for example. No surprises…yet. We grow as a team and try to make progress every day to be prepared. We are very focused on the process and not on the result.’

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