Bears advance to title game
Pleasant Valley came into Wednesday's District 11 Class AAA field hockey semifinal riding a smothering defense and the outstanding goalie play of Rachel Wild.
The Bears, who had posted 11 shutouts on the season, got another outstanding defensive performance to defeat Northampton, 2-1.
"Our game plan tonight was to play solid defense because defense wins games," said Pleasant Valley coach Jess Frantz.
Actually both defenses dominated the opening half which was very even in terms of momentum and statistics.
Pleasant Valley and Northampton both accumulated three shots on goal. The Bears had four corners to Konkrete Kids' three.
Both squads had multiple opportunities in the opposition's box, but neither side could capitalize.
"I told the girls we needed to send their passes a little bit wider to create more space on the field," said Frantz about her halftime instructions to her team.
The second half was definitely played much wider by both sides, creating more scoring opportunities.
It was actually Northampton that broke through first as Megan Wiest made some impressive moves in the box that resulted in the game's first goal at the 23:43 mark of the second half.
However, Wild's goalkeeping kept Northampton scoreless for the rest of the half despite six Northampton corners.
Pleasant Valley (15-7) struck back at the 16:46 mark as Alex DiMarco scored off of a Melissa Russo corner.
"Alex was clutch," Frantz simply stated. "She just has that phenomenal hit. Alex stepped up all over the field sending balls through tonight."
The resilient Bears wasted no time coming right back at Northampton (13-6-1).
Russo slapped in what would be the game winning at the 14:52 mark.
"Melissa did really well keeping the ball on her stick and burning her defenders in the backfield," said Frantz.
With just under 13 minutes left in the contest, Northampton took a timeout to prepare for one more push.
The Konkrete Kids, who were playing without one of their leading scorers in Kaitlyn Fehnel, earned four corners in the next eight minutes, but came up empty on all of them.
The victory not only gives Pleasant Valley a berth in Saturday's District 11 Championship game against Emmaus, but it also earns the Bears a berth in the PIAA State Tournament.
"I couldn't be happier to take them to states in my first year," Frantz said. "Before the season I wasn't expecting to take over as head coach. It's tough being a grad student and coaching these girls but it's worth every second of it."
The District 11 championship game will at 3 p.m. at Whitehall High School.