Palmyra ousts Owen J. Roberts in PIAA-AAA opener

HERSHEY >> The ending didn’t do it justice.

Making their first trip to the PIAA-AAA playoffs since the 2013 season on Tuesday night, Owen J. Roberts had come a long way to get back to that point again this year.

Boasting a roster stacked with well-rounded upper classmen who were a part of that team two seasons ago, the Wildcats’ season came to a close with a 2-0 loss to District 3 powerhouse Palmyra at Milton Hershey in the opening round of the Class AAA state tournament.

“The last time we were (at states), it was sophomore year, and a lot of us weren’t even playing much,” said Owen J. Roberts senior Keeley White. “Our goal all season was to win PAC-10s and then make it to states. We did both of those this year. Anything else would have been a bonus.”

Nettie Montes was also a part of that team, which suffered an opening round loss to Warwick.

After missing the state tournament last year, she and the Wildcats were determined to end their scholastic careers the right way.

“We knew what we wanted to accomplish this season,” she said, “and we weren’t going to stop until we got it. As seniors, we came together in the offseason and knew this would be our last shot.”

On Tuesday, the Cougars held OJR without a shot on goal while tallying 14 themselves. They also dominated in penalty corners, 19-1. Kyle Bomgardner and Alexis Smith each scored in the first half to give Palmyra all the cushion needed to hold on the rest of the way.

“We were doing a great job of controlling the ball and getting into our passing rhythm in the first half, but then we sort of lost touch as the game went on,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello. “We did a really good job of creating corners, and found a way to tip two of them in.”

With the win, Palmyra advances to face Lower Dauphin (3-0 winner over Fox Chapel) on Saturday. The Cougars move a step closer to defending their co-state title, one season after finishing in a 1-1 double-overtime tie with Penn Manor in the championship.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” Costello added. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves just yet. We’ve got to stay focused on the next game and go from there.”

Owen J. Roberts’ goalkeeper Amanda Lamb was focused, coming up with 12 saves on the night.

“I wanted to leave it all on the field,” Lamb said. “This season was all about being with the team. We never wanted to give up.”

Their efforts were obvious, even down to the waning moments.

As the horn sounded on their season, Lamb was sprawled out on the ground still working to keep the Cougars out of the cage while the OJR defense was working to clear it.

“It came down to pride,” said Montes. “For a lot of us, those were the final moments of our high school careers.”

Getting to the state tournament was no cake-walk, either. After suffering a 4-2 loss to No. 1 seeded Unionville in districts, the Wildcats regrouped and outlasted Neshaminy in playbacks, 2-1, to ensure a berth at states.

It’s the sort of determination and grit that first-year head coach Amy Hoffman says drove the Wildcats all season.

“They never gave up, even when they had the odds stacked against them,” she said. “Coming in, once the girls found out (former head coach) Clarence (Janelle) was leaving, we weren’t sure how they would respond. It’s never easy to make a transition to a new coach, especially as seniors.

“But they responded great and played to the best of their ability every single game. That’s all we can ask from them. They created a lot of goals for this season, and it’s nice that they worked so hard and were able to meet those goals. They deserve it.”

NOTES >> Kiley Gallagher added an assist on Smith’s goal.

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