MECHANICSBURG >> Villa Maria Academy tallied two goals on penalty corners in the second half to grab a 3-2 win over East Pennsboro in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A field hockey tournament Tuesday night at Mechanicsburg’s Memorial Park.
With the score knotted at 1-1 in the second half, Villa Maria picked up a corner and Ryan Hickey inserted the ball to Maia Dechario. Her blast from the wing beat Panther freshman keeper Alexa Johnson.
Moments later, East Penn’s Gery Schnarrs took a corner pass from Josie Shermyer and sent in a high shot that deflected off the keeper and dropped behind her into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
Villa Maria inserted the same play on its next corner, and Dechario ripped it into the net from the same spot for the game-winner.
East Pennsboro fought valiantly to get that tying goal but an unfortunate call and card cost them Schnarrs for the final 90 seconds of the game.
Alison Buffington, Schnarrs, Caeley Letersky and Kirstin Sconyers created chances, but the Panthers just couldn’t get the tying goal.
“Villa Maria is a very good team and with a couple of unfortunate calls, it could have been a different game,” Panthers head coach Elizabeth Groff said.
East Pennsboro (18-5) was the District 3 runner-up under Groff, finishing with losses against three District 3 champs (3A’s Lower Dauphin, 2A’s Palmyra and 1A’s Greenwood) and two PIAA qualifiers (Northern and Villa Maria).
Villa Maria Academy (13-9), the District 1 third seed but a perennial state title contender, is in the midst of a rebuilding year with numerous sophomores and freshmen playing significant minutes under second year coach Katie Evans.
On the Panthers’ first trip into the offensive zone, Buffington beat the defense and ripped a shot at goal. It didn’t connect, but Letersky was there for the rebound to make it 1-0 Panthers just two minutes in.
Villa Maria rebounded quickly and earned a penalty corner. Caroline O’Brien found Meghan Dillon, and her shot hit the back of the cage for the equalizer at the six-minute mark.
The two teams traded field possession the rest of the half, but the defenses stood firm.
East Pennsboro had four corners in the final six minutes but couldn’t put that shot away.
“We had our chances and just couldn’t put that final piece together,” Groff said. “When things don’t go our way, sometimes we have hard time getting it back together. The girls have had an outstanding season, and we will work harder for next year. I just think we let one slip away tonight.”
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