Quick score propels Indians
bob ford/times news Lehighton's Jordyn Homyak (right) and Selinsgrove's Candice Smith both find themselves airbourne as they battle for control of the ball.
HERSHEY Ten seconds.
That's all the time it took for Lehighton's field hockey team to gain momentum in Saturday's PIAA state quarterfinal game against Selinsgrove.
With possession to start the Class AA contest, the Indians' Jordyn Homyak sent a long lift downfield. Before the ball hit the ground Echo Bretz played it, gained control, and beat the Seals' keeper for a goal and a quick lead.
Tallies from Sarah Keer and Steph Slaw provided added insurance and an eventual 3-0 victory that propelled Lehighton into the semifinals, but it was that opening score that proved to be the game-winner and had most people talking after the final horn sounded.
"We run that play. Last year we scored a couple like that," said Lehighton head coach Shawn Hindy, whose team will now face Conrad Weiser on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Emmaus. "We like to put the pressure on right away and that's one of the best ways to do it just chuck it up there and see what happens.
"It's a great weapon. We work on those and Jordyn can do it really well."
While it's a great weapon, Saturday was the first time this season that it has actually worked for the Indians (21-3).
"We do it all the time, but we've never been successful until today," said Bretz. "For it to take 23 games, to actually put one in feels great."
It didn't feel great for the District 4 champs. Nor was it expected.
"They caught us off guard," said Selinsgrove mentor Cathy Keiser, whose team ended the season with a 19-3-1 record. "We weren't ready for that. It was a great play by them. Lift it down the middle and take it in. We haven't seen that all year.
"This is a very bouncy field. They played it in the air and we're used to letting it fall. We weren't quite prepared for that. Coaching-wise, that was a great way to start off the game and it worked for them. Our keeper had the sun right in her eyes. It was good strategy on their part."
The strategy worked so well that Lehighton and Homyak did it again in the first half. After gaining a free hit, Homyak again lofted the ball toward the Selinsgrove cage. This time the ball eventually ended up on Keer's stick and the sophomore back-handed it home for a 2-0 advantage with 21:13 still remaining until the break.
"(The first one) pumped us up and got us ready to play," said Homyak. "We scored another one soon after that.
"We don't see it that much against us. Personally, I don't think it's completely hard to stop but with the sun and everything, sometimes it can be hard."
A 2-0 hole against the Tribe may be a hard hole for any club to climb out of, but Coach Hindy wanted to make sure his team understood that there was plenty of game left to be played.
The Indian head coach quickly called timeout after the second score to make the point.
"After we scored the first goal, they had the run of play for the next eight or nine minutes," he said. "We got another goal, and I just wanted to reiterate that it's a 60-minute game. I told them it was a good start, but that's all it was a good start. We wanted to make sure we finished it off."
Lehighton's defense did just that.
While Selinsgrove had some quality opportunities in the first half, gaining three corners and three shots, the Seals' chances were more limited in the second half.
In fact, over the final 30 minutes they received just two more corners and managed no shots.
"Our defensive plan was simply to stay patient and when the ball comes to us, get it," said Slaw.
Slaw also got to the ball at the offensive end converting on one of the Indians' penalty corners early in the second half.
The junior fired a shot into the cage with 27:10 left to play to give her team a commanding 3-0 margin.
"That was my first goal of the season, and I'm not going to lie. I was excited to get it," she said. "I really don't get that many opportunities."
Now the Indians have the opportunity to again reach a state championship game.
"I think we're very confident now," said Hindy. "I know we can win, but now the girls believe and know they can win.
"This is something we've done before and obviously we want to go down that same path."