WHITEHALL, PA - One shot to win it! That is what it came down to.
For the Lehighton field hockey team, that's all they had to convert to claim the school's first ever team state championship. One shot is all they needed.
Senior Corrine McConville's penalty stroke 6:22 into the first overtime turned a tightly fought contest into a 1-0 win over Selinsgrove and the PIAA Class AA State Title.
The overtime period began with a jolt right from the start. A long pass found speedster Abby Frey behind the defense with a scoring opportunity. From there, the Indian pressure didn't let up.
Six minutes later, Vanessa Rimbey found herself one-on-one with Selinsgrove keeper Amber Wendt. The senior forward's move to get past the on-rushing goalie led to a collision that set up the penalty stroke.
"I was one-on-one with her and I knew she was coming out," Rimbey said. "I tapped it to my left and I guess she didn't see me tap it."
"It was just amazing," said McConville. "Vanessa got right in front of the goalie She shot as hard as she could and she got the stroke for me."
McConville appeared calm as she lined up for the shot with her teammates and what seemed like the entire town of Lehighton behind her.
After her shot to the right corner slipped past Seal keeper Wendt, McConville turned toward her teammates and collapsed to her knees. Her teammates and coaches rushed towards her in celebration.
"I normally go to the top left corner," McConville said. "(Wendt) was all the way pushed to (my left). I thought 'why not bottom right? We practice both so I put it in the bottom right and it is the best feeling in the world."
Lehighton coach Shawn Hindy knew the moment the call was made that the ball would reach the back of the net.
"I was already picturing it in the goal before she shot it." Hindy said. "I'm extremely happy for the town, the school, and everyone involved. We have great kids and great people here and they deserve it."
Hindy, in his fourth year as field hockey coach, was just as emotional about the win as his team.
"It wasn't our best game, we just fought," Hindy said. "We wanted to win. You've got to use your mind, your heart, and combine it all and we got the win."
Both teams sparred early like two boxers in a prized fight sizing each other up. Lehighton found their game first and slowly strangled Selinsgrove.
"I thought we were nervous and frustrated with the calls, but I think once we got it rolling we were all right," Hindy said. "I knew we were going to take it in overtime,"
The hidden key to Lehighton's championship run was the play of their defense as they registered six straight shutouts and outscored opponents 20-2 since District play began.
On Saturday, the Lehighton defense stepped up to the challenge and shut down 31-goal scorer Hope Burke. In all, the Seal offense managed just one first half shot on goal despite having eight penalty corners.
"To come out with goose eggs is an amazing feeling," senior goalie Sarah Snyder said. "The defense we have back there is amazing and they do everything perfect."
"It's not just our defenders," McConville said of the teamwork involved. "From our forwards and our midfielders getting all the way back it's like hitting a brick wall."
If there is a reason for that brick wall, it could have something to do with the Lehighton schedule. In playing the likes of Donegal, Selinsgrove, and AAA state champion Lower Dauphin during the season primed the Lady Indians for the championship.
All season, the Indians went after their opponents and found themselves in the right position in close games. In their first meeting with Selinsgrove on Oct. 17, it was a score on a penalty corner that decided the outcome.
"It's a tough call but there are tough calls all around," Hindy explained about the called penalty stroke. "We were in the right spot. We were in their circle putting pressure on and good things happened."
Even with 10 Mountain Valley Conference titles and six District 11 titles, a state championship had always eluded the storied Indian program.
"I believed we could do it since I got here, but finally the mentality got with them that they believed they could do it." Hindy said. "I mean 26-0 is unbelievable."
The team celebrated with the entire town. On their return, the Lady Indians boarded a flat bed and road a hero's journey through Lehighton.
"We did it for the town. We did it for ourselves. It just feels good to win it with my best friends that I have been playing with for so long," Rimbey said.