Indians reach MVC final
bob ford/times news Sarah Keer of Lehighton (right) tries to escape the defensive pressure being applied by Pleasant Valley's Alanna Liptak.
Although it was a heavy underdog entering Monday night's semi-final matchup with Lehighton, the Pleasant Valley field hockey team came out as the aggressor and took it to the Indians for the first twenty minutes of the game.
Unfortunately for the Bears, field hockey contests are sixty minutes long.
Pleasant Valley (8-11, 7-5) played without fear for the majority of the first half and controlled most of the action. However, Lehighton pulled itself together for the last ten minutes and managed to put two goals on the board before the break. The score would remain the same until the end, as the Indians knocked off the Bears 2-0 to advance to the Mountain Valley Conference championship game.
"I think we were a little used to playing on turf," said Lehighton head coach Shawn Hindy on his team's slow start. "We played Friday and Saturday on turf and that is one of the disadvantages of playing (in Lehighton). This is probably the best grass field around, but the ball will still take some bad hops.
"We were swinging at the ball and not making sure that we trapped it. It took us a while to get used to that. We were kind of being defensive and just trying to hit the ball out when we like to possess the ball and pass it around."
The Bears applied heavy pressure early on, but had only two shots to show for their efforts. Their first shot went wide left while their second was blocked before it got to the net.
The momentum turned at the 9:35 mark when Lehighton earned its first corner of the game. Echo Bretz lost control of the corner pass, but managed to regain possession and get off a shot. Her shot was blocked and fell to teammate Steph Slaw, who then found Sarah Keer for the goal.
The Indians would add another goal seconds before halftime on their fourth corner. Their shot from the point was blocked once again, but the ball fell in front of the net where Rachel Werley picked it up and put it in.
"We dominated the first half in my opinion," said Pleasant Valley head coach Bob Young. "We just didn't get the ball in the net. We didn't have enough shots. Lehighton came back and got two goals but that was really its only two attacks. They got two corners and two goals. It was frustrating to watch."
Lehighton kept the momentum in the second half, as it outshot and out-cornered the Bears for the remainder of the game.
Even though Pleasant Valley is under .500 overall, it will still qualify for District 11 play with its .500 record in the MVC. The Bears have not made it to the quarterfinals since 2006. Still, Young is optimistic.
"We will get over this quickly," said Young. "Unfortunately we will probably have a pig-tail game to then either play the first or second seed. We knew that coming in. Our record wasn't good enough to do anything else.
"No team will look forward to playing us though, I can tell you that. We will be a real wild-card. I think a lot of teams will be frightened if we get anybody on turf as opposed to grass."
Meanwhile, the Indians (16-3, 12-0) will play Stroudsburg (defeated Pocono Mt. East in penalty strokes, 4-3) for the championship on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at East Stroudsburg South. Lehighton won both meetings this year and will face the Mounties in the MVC title game for the third consecutive year.
"We played Stroudsburg last Friday, so now we will play them twice in less than a week," said Hindy. "This time it is for the championship. They are a good team and we need to step up our play. It will definitely be a sixty minute battle. They will be rested and ready to go and we need to do the same."