Indians go after first-ever state title
TIMES NEWS FILEPHOTO BY BOB FORD Lehighton players celebrate their win over Villa Marie Academy in the PIAA State semifinals on Tuesday. The Indians will play Selinsgrove for the State Championship today at 12 noon at Whitehall.
Lehighton head field hockey coach Shawn Hindy has played on numerous US National teams.
He's been named the US Field Hockey Male Athlete of the Year and has traveled all over the world.
But despite all he's accomplished in the sport he loves, he admits he's a bit envious of his Indian players heading into this afternoon's PIAA Class AA state championship game.
"I'm a bit anxious and jealous as well because I want to play," said the Tribe's head coach. "I've played in some important games but never in a championship-type game. It's exciting for the town, the school and the kids. We're looking forward to it."
Like Hindy, Lehighton is unfamiliar to state championship games.
Never in the school's history has an Indian team played for a PIAA gold medal.
That all changes at noon today when the Tribe (25-0) meet Selinsgrove (23-1) at Whitehall's Zephyr Sports Complex.
"We're very excited and we worked really hard all season for this," said senior Corrine McConville. "The results are paying off now. We haven't stopped working and all the girls really want it."
"We're the type of team that works well under pressure and I feel like this will be a pressure-packed game," said fellow senior Abby Frey. "We're excited and we're ready to go."
If there's one thing Lehighton is familiar with, it's the opponent. The Seals, whose field hockey team is also making its first appearance in a state final, and the Indians not only faced each other earlier this season but met two times a year ago.
Hindy's squad earned a 1-0 victory back on Oct. 17, handing Selinsgrove its only loss of the season. In that contest, Lehighton held a 9-2 advantage in shots.
In 2008 the two clubs played to a 2-2 tie during the regular season. The Seals, however, earned a dramatic 3-2 double overtime win in the opening round of the state playoffs.
"It's an advantage for us, but it's also an advantage for them," said Hindy. "They know who we are. I think neither team played their best (on Oct. 17) but that was a month ago. We've improved a lot and I'm sure they have too. It's going to be a battle."
Selinsgrove reached the title game by defeating Southern Lehigh (3-0), Archbishop Carroll (2-1), and Donegal (2-1). Lehighton's march to the final included wins over Lancaster Mennonite (1-0), Crestwood (1-0) and Villa Maria Academy (3-0).
Win or lose, the game will be the final one for the Indian seniors.
Obviously, they're hoping they can go out in style.
"We're looking forward to the game, not the aftermath," said Frey, who leads the Indians with 14 goals. "Afterwards we're looking for happy tears, not sad tears. We don't want to end our season on a sad note. We want to come out on top this year and show everybody where the little town of Lehighton is.
"This has been a dream for all of us since seventh grade," added goalie Sarah Snyder. "It's something we've worked hard for the last six years. And I think we're going to achieve our goal this year."
Lehighton will have its hands full in shutting down a highly-powered Selinsgrove squad. The Seals are led offensively by senior Hope Burke, who has 35 goals and 22 assists. Junior Paige Bordner has 21goals and seven assists.
"We beat them during the season, but that's not even in our mind anymore," said McConville, who has 10 goals and 17 assists. "That's not going to effect the way we come out on Saturday."
"We know how they play, but we're going to come out like it's any other game," said Frey. "We want to play our game, and not their game and that's what's going to help us by the end of the game."
The Indians may also be helped by their fans, who have supported the team all season long.
The borough has scheduled a big send-off, complete with a police/fire company escort. Whether the team ends with gold or silver, there will be a parade to honor their success.
"I feel like our whole school and town are behind us," said McConville. "People at the supermarket come up to us and tell us good luck. These are people we don't even know, but they know what we're doing and following our team."