Palmerton rallies to reach title game
BETHLEHEM - The pressure of postseason play can be a heavy burden.
It was no problem for Palmerton’s field hockey team.
The Blue Bombers used a pair of third-quarter goals to top Wilson 2-1 in Wednesday’s District 11 Class 1A semifinals at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
Palmerton will play Palisades Saturday at 11 a.m. at Whitehall for the district title.
For the second seed Blue Bombers, the trip is a long time coming.
“It is huge for Palmerton; it’s huge for the field hockey program here,” said head coach Lauren Salerno. “They have not been to the district championship since 1983 - which is amazing.
“I’m so proud of them. They’ve had this goal since the beginning of the year, and they knew they could do it, and they’re really proving themselves that they can do it. We’re there. We’re going there.”
Sydney Frantz tied it with 5:10 remaining in the third period.
“When Emma (Christman) had the ball, I just knew that we were going to get it in because they weren’t going to know what we were doing because it’s a new corner,” said Frantz, who scored her 16th goal of the season. “So we just had to execute it, and we did.”
An idea from senior Erin Kistler, the play was a new wrinkle that was just the spark Palmerton needed.
“Sydney inserted it, and normally that person goes right to the near post,” said Salerno. “But instead of going to the post, Sydney actually stepped forward five yards. Normally, they’re expecting her to go to the post, but when she didn’t go to where she should have been, it hopefully throws them off guard, and she’s at a good enough angle to get it on a nice flick and get it in the goal.
“It’s so cool. That corner, we put it all together and it’s just so neat to see it executed, and it got us our goal.”
Skylar Kohler put the Bombers ahead with 3:59 to play in the third with her 11th score of the season. It was Palmerton’s fourth corner of the quarter, equaling the number it had in the first half.
“She just said that we need to keep our heads up and not get discouraged, and just keep working hard like she knows that we can,” Kohler said of Salerno’s message at halftime.
Wilson broke through first, scoring with 0:52 left in the first half. Sophia Bandi got the goal after a corner that was sent in by Abigail Sagrestano.
The Warriors took a pair of corners at the end of the third quarter, one of which was created by a long run from Melissa Shunk. Both times the Bombers stood stall.
Wilson had three corners in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, and a scoring opportunity on a shot from Bryana Raisner with 8:00 remaining in the contest.
But Palmerton’s defense and goalie Shannon Dougherty turned it aside.
“We knew that Shunk was a very good player,” said Salerno. “She’s fast, she has good stick skills. So we knew that she was our main girl that we had to watch.
“We knew that they did have the skill, so we wanted to be patient. We didn’t want to overcommit, because we knew if we did that, they were going to use their speed and skill to get right down the field.”
Palmerton played it perfectly.
And now the Bombers are aiming for a district title.
“I’m proud of them. They didn’t hang their heads, and that’s something we’ve improved on when someone scores on us,” said Salerno. “We don’t hang our heads, and we still play our game, because you could score in 10 seconds.”
PUSHING THE PACE
... After turning away Wilson’s scoring chances late in the contest, Palmerton nearly added to its lead. Leading scorer Analise Recker (19 goals) had a shot saved by Warriors’ keeper Nina Green with 6:00 remaining.
... Palmerton picked up a 1-0 win over Wilson during the regular season on Sept. 25.
... The Blue Bombers and No. 4 seed Palisades also met during the regular season finale. The Pirates came away with a 2-1 victory. Both teams have clinched a spot in the PIAA Class 1A tournament.