Indian seniors paved way back
bob ford/times news Lehighton's Echo Bretz pushes the ball upfield.
WHITEHALL - This time there were tears instead of cheers, comforting instead of celebrating, and frustration instead of jubilation.
Just one year ago, the Lehighton field hockey team captured the first PIAA State Championship in school history with a dramatic penalty stroke victory.
Saturday, the Indians returned to the Whitehall High School Sports Complex hoping for another dream finish. Instead, they suffered through a nightmare.
Wyoming Seminary dominated Lehighton from the opening minute until the final seconds and cruised to a 5-0 victory in the Class AA State Championship game.
The disappointment in coming so close to achieving their ultimate goal, but falling one win short was difficult on the Indians. Tears flowed throughout the postgame handshakes, medal presentations and media interviews.
It was especially emotional for Lehighton's five seniors a group of girls who have played together since junior high and passionately carried their teammates on an improbable 12-month quest to try and duplicate last season's title hat trick.
From almost the time last year's State Championship victory parade ended, Jordyn Homyak, Echo Bretz, Kenzie Teno, Courtney Berger and Kacy Beck dedicated themselves to making history repeat itself.
"We knew we would have to work 10 times harder than we did last year if we wanted to repeat," said Homyak. "We worked our butts off to get back here.
"Not many people expected us to be back in this game again. I'm so proud of everyone on this team. We came so close to reaching our goal. Unfortunately, today didn't go like we had planned. But I don't think it takes anything away from what we accomplished this season."
What the 2010 Indians accomplished was 22 wins along with Mountain Valley Conference and District 11 Class AA championships.
That came despite the fact that they graduated seven seniors from last year's team, including half the starting line-up.
"We lost some great seniors from last year's team," said Berger. "But we dedicated ourselves to finding a way to fill those spaces.
"We battled all year and worked so hard to get back here. It really hurts to fall short, but I think when we look back on the season, we'll realize that we accomplished a lot of great things."
Bretz, who combined with Homyak to lead the Indians offensively this season, said even back in the pre-season she had a feeling this could be a special year.
"I thought we could get here again. I really believed that," she said. "We had a lot of talented field hockey players, but even more importantly we had a lot of dedicated field hockey players.
"As seniors, we didn't let anyone rest on last season's success. We worked hard and tried to lead the underclassmen by example. It stinks that we lost this game, but no one should hang their heads. It was a great season."
Although this year's Indian team probably didn't have as much raw skill and talent as the 2009 team, it never accepted the fact that it couldn't be just as special.
Teno credited that to the closeness of the senior class.
"We're all best friends," she said. "We been playing together since the sixth grade and it [a state championship] was always our goal.
"We made sure the underclassmen knew what it would take to get back here again and how much it meant to all of us."
Probably no one appreciates the contributions of the senior class more than Lehighton head coach Shawn Hindy.
"I'm so proud of those girls," said Hindy. "They were extremely hard workers and great leaders.
"The way they dedicated themselves to get back to this game was amazing. They have so much to remember and be proud about. They played in two straight state championship games. That's an amazing feat."
During the past two seasons, Homyak, Bretz, Teno, Berger and Beck have been part of 48 victories, two MVC titles, two District 11 crowns, and have earned PIAA state gold and silver medals.
It's a two-year run that any high school athlete would envy.
"Tonight it will hurt," said Hindy about the loss. "But in a few days when they look back on their careers and all they accomplished, they'll realize how awesome this was."