STROUDSBURG – East Stroudsburg North and Stroudsburg both prevailed in their respective Mountain Valley Conference semi-final field hockey games Monday night.
East Stroudsburg North upset Lehighton to make it to it's first-ever title game. Top-seeded Stroudsburg knocked off Pleasant Valley to advance to its fourth straight conference championship game. The two teams will play for the MVC trophy Wednesday at 7 p.m. at East Stroudsburg South.
There will be a new Mountain Valley Conference field hockey champion this year.
East Stroudsburg North (11-6-1, 7-5-1) will attempt to make the most of its first-ever appearance in the MVC playoffs, as the Timberwolves knocked off Lehighton 3-2. It was the T'Wolves' first win over the Indians in three tries this season.
Meanwhile, the Indians failed to make it to the MVC finals for the first time in eight years. Lehighton had seven corners in the second half and 10 for the game, but failed to convert on any of them. It would be the difference in the end.
"That has basically been our problem all year," said Lehighton first-year head coach Lamar Long. "We have failed to capitalize on our opportunities. We have been working on it all year. We have finishers. We have offensive generators. We just have had trouble finishing when it matters."
Rachel Werley gave the Indians the first lead of the game when she scored at the 15:59 mark of the first half. The lead was short-lived however, as Lauren Brennan scored consecutive goals for the Timberwolves at the 12:47 and 8:38 marks of the first half.
Although North held a slight lead in corners (5-3) and was tied in shots (four) heading into the break, Long's message to his girls was plain and simple. Keep battling.
"I told the girls to keep trying," Long said. "We beat (North) and tied them during the regular season, so we knew we could get to them.
"They scored. It happens. We had to keep playing. But, like I said, we had trouble finishing on offense all game."
Lehighton came out of halftime and applied some pressure immediately. Its pressure forced a few corners, but – as was the story all night – the Indians could not put any away.
The Indians received another corner later, but had its shot attempt turned away by the North defense. The Timberwolves reversed field almost instantaneously and pushed the ball deep into the opposite end. North's Melissa Deresky redirected the initial shot and gave her team a 3-1 lead with 20 minutes to play.
Lehighton's offense finally broke through with just under 10 minutes to go, as Emily Mantz got a put back in a scrum to draw the Indians to within one. Unfortunately, that would be the closest they would get for the remainder of the game.
Lehighton (8-8-3, 7-3-3) had won seven of the last eight conference titles, with its only loss coming in 2008 to Stroudsburg. The Indians' focus will now shift to district play next week.
"The MVC post-season is over and now we are going to districts," said Long. "It is like a whole new season for us, so we are going to go to work this week and hopefully come out strong."
Pleasant Valley gave Stroudsburg all it could handle in the first half of its MVC semi-final.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they couldn't keep up with the Mounties for the last 25 minutes.
After playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, Stroudsburg pulled away down the stretch and scored three goals in 14 minutes en route to beating Pleasant Valley 3-0. The Mounties will be in search of their first MVC title since 2008 on Wednesday.
"Overall I thought we played well until we made some mistakes at the end," said Pleasant Valley head coach Angie Frantz, who is in her first year at the helm. "We let up and let (Stroudsburg) work the right side of the field, which is their strength. Our mistakes cost us tonight."
If it was intimidated by a one-loss Stroudsburg (17-1-1, 11-1-1) team in the first half, Pleasant Valley sure didn't show it. The Lady Bears played great defense and limited the Mounties to just six shots and one corner.
However, Pleasant Valley could muster just one shot and one corner of its own. Frantz said that has been something that has been hindering her team all season.
"I felt like we had a lot more intensity in the first half," said Frantz. "We played more defensively in the second half. We were basically playing defense the whole time and our offense just wasn't there.
"We have been struggling with that the whole year. We have been such a defensive-minded team and can't transition to offense."
Roughly six minutes into the second half the Mounties finally got on the board thanks to a Katie Deluca goal. Teammate Liz Leh added a second goal about 12 minutes later before Deluca would score again at the 10-minute mark. That would be all she wrote for Pleasant Valley.
The Bears (6-11-1, 6-6-1) still qualify for District 11 play with their .500 record in the conference.
"I am hoping we can learn from this," Frantz said. "We saw tonight what happens when all we try to do is play defense. Now we know we have to work on our offense, because at the end of the day goals win games."