EAST STROUDSBURG – Both regular season field hockey games between Stroudsburg and Lehighton were decided by a single goal.
So, it was only fitting that the Mountain Valley Conference championship game between the two teams was determined by the same margin.
Thursday night's contest unfolded the same way for Lehighton as its semifinal match-up with Pleasant Valley did – with their opponent, this time second-seeded Stroudsburg, coming out strong. And much like their semifinal win, the championship game ended with the Indians taking total control on their way to victory. Rachel Werley's first-half goal was the difference, as Lehighton won its second straight conference title and seventh in the last eight years.
"The first half was pretty competitive and Stroudsburg started out strong," said Lehighton head coach Shawn Hindy. "In the second half it felt like the ball was down here most of the time. They barely had any penetration.
"I told the girls that we had to work on our finishing. I thought there were some times when we could have gotten some goals and went up two or three, but their goalie (Kim Henry) made some good saves. Luckily we held on and got the win."
Stroudsburg (14-6) applied pressure right from the get-go and earned its first penalty corner just one minute the game. The Mounties managed to get a shot off, but a teammate deflected the ball too high and the play was blown dead. It would turn out to be the only shot Stroudsburg would record on the night.
Lehighton slowly picked up its play and started to apply pressure of its own. The Indians earned their first corner at the 18-minute mark, however Echo Bretz's shot was blocked before it reached the net.
The Indians' continued attack finally yielded results with eight minutes to go before halftime. Jordyn Homyak passed in a corner to Bretz, who quickly gave it back. Homyak then flicked the ball in front of the net. After a moment of players fighting for possession, Werley got her stick on the ball and knocked it in for the goal. The Indians would take the 1-0 lead into the break.
Hindy must have said the right things at halftime, because his Lehighton team came out in the second half as the aggressor. The Indians reeled off four shots in the first six minutes of play and were also awarded six corners within the first ten. Although the Indians failed to capitalize, it became obvious that they had control.
"I think it helped our nerves a little bit once we settled in," said Hindy. "We pride ourselves on our fitness, so the second half is the time that we step up and get going. That is when we really get our motors going.
"I just told the girls to be aggressive. In the beginning we kind of fell on our back foot and Stroudsburg took it to us for a little. They got a couple of corners and we were able to fight them off. Finally, we decided to go out and play our type of hockey and do what we do. We did that well in the second half."
Lehighton practically controlled all of the play in the second half. So much so that Stroudsburg did not get the ball into the Indians' circle until 5:20 was left on the clock. Even then the Mounties were held without a shot.
Thursday night's shutout was Lehighton's ninth of the season.
Lehighton's trophy case must be getting full. In now his fifth year as head coach, Hindy has already brought home four MVC titles.
"Actually, there is no more room in the Lehighton trophy case for any trophy," joked Hindy. "We are trying to get display cases, but the athletic director is working on that one.
"We have done awesome and we are going to keep it up. We have the same goals as we did last year. We want to win the MVC, win districts and win states. We accomplished step one of three. Now we will try to go for step two."