Penn-Trafford field hockey falls in OT of WPIAL final
One of the best games of the year for Penn-Trafford field hockey ended with the most heartbreaking ending.
The Warriors' bid for back-to-back WPIAL championships ended in overtime of the Class AAA final, when Sammi Pitz scored on a rebound from close range to give Fox Chapel a 1-0 win at North Allegheny High School on Oct. 31.
Penn-Trafford (15-4-1) dominated throughout the game in both territory and scoring chances; the Warriors finished with 18 penalty corners in the game, while Fox Chapel (14-6-0) had only one.
“We had opportunities. We just couldn't put the ball in the cage,” Penn-Trafford coach Cindy Dutt said.
“On a play-to-play basis, we won that game. Unfortunately for us, they got the upper hand for a brief moment of time.”
Pitz scored with 3:09 remaining in the first overtime period on what began as a harmless-looking play. Katie Hardiman moved the ball up the right wing for the Foxes and sent a hard hit toward the goal from a sharp angle.
The ball missed the players for both teams working toward the near post, and P-T goalie Harry Miller stepped out to kick the ball away from his goal. Instead, the ball took an awkward hop off his pads and went into the path of Pitz, who scored on the back post.
That goal brought an abrupt end to a game that Penn-Trafford controlled, with the speed of seniors Amanda Steffey and Sydney Pribanic creating repeated chances on long, vertical runs.
“We've adjusted all season for different teams, and the girls did a great job,” Dutt said. “We knew they were going to press the whole field — they did it against us the first time and did it against North Allegheny (in the semifinals) — and I think we prepared really well for them.”
P-T had two good chances to score in the first half. The first came when Ashley Mandich sent a pass through the circle from the left to Maggie Saunders, who was open on the back post but unable to get her stick to the ball.
That play led to a penalty corner for P-T, and the ball came to Isabel Siergiej, who rifled a shot off the right post, and Steffey was unable to push home the rebound.
In the 43rd minute, the Warriors put the ball in the goal when Siergiej hit a drive on a penalty corner that found Karen Postupac on the left post. The ball deflected in, but the goal was disallowed because it hit Postupac's leg.
In overtime, both teams had a good chance to get the winning goal, but Pitz was stopped at close range by Miller, and Steffey was denied by Fox Chapel goalie Alaina George on a quickly developing breakaway.
“I give a lot of credit to the Fox Chapel defense. They were very good, and their goalie was very smart, agile and kept us out of positions to score,” Dutt said.
Despite the loss, the Penn-Trafford field hockey program now boasts back-to-back WPIAL final appearances after only seven years of full varsity status. Even with an excellent group of seniors graduating earlier in 2012, this year's team kept the Warriors near the top of the district.
“I'm really proud of the program,” Dutt said. “I still remember going to the school board to try and get a club team started. Now we've won a WPIAL title, and I don't know if any of the newer programs in the area have ever made it to back-to-back finals.
“I don't know how you replace the heart of girls like (seniors) Sydney Pribanic and Amanda Steffey. But after the game, some of my sophomores said we'll be back, so I'm hopeful they'll work hard and keep this going.
While the Warriors' season ended, the Foxes progressed to the PIAA play-in game. Fox Chapel was unable to move into the full Class AAA bracket, however, as it fell, 5-0, at State College.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.