Primetime performers Ephrata bounces fourth-seed from Districts, advances to Final 8
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
Sometimes, a little adversity brings a team closer together and leads to bigger and better things.
That certainly seems to be the case for the Section Two champion Ephrata field hockey team, which was dealt not one but two major blows to their defense prior to the start of Districts. First, senior defender Amanda Horst went down with a knee injury. Then, fellow senior defender Alyssa Sadorf broke her thumb.
Both were lost for the season, but the Lady Mounts so far have found a way to overcome their absence.
Saturday at Penn Manor, they opened Districts with a convincing 3-0 shutout victory over Governor Mifflin in a play-in game. Tuesday night at fourth-seeded Dallastown, Ephrata scored four-straight goals in the second half to key a 4-2 victory over the York-Adams League champs.
With the victory, the 13th seeded Lady Mounts advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals at a site to be determined where they’ll face fifth-seeded Cumberland Valley, a 5-1 winner over Central Dauphin Tuesday.
"We are very excited because we surpassed our goal of getting past the first round of Districts," Ephrata tri-captain Emma Frees said following Tuesday’s win. "Now, more than ever, it’s important that we work as a team. We realize that, so we are just kind of encouraging and supporting each other through every game. And it’s just really exciting to know that we are that much closer to States."
With Horst and Sadorf gone, Ephrata Coach Rhoda Mountz moved Frees from midfield to defense to join remaining senior Olivia Fagan and help secure the back line. And, she inserted junior Brooklyn Thomas and sophomore Grace Sensenig at the two vacated positions.
So far, so good, according to Mountz.
"They’ve stepped up to the plate," she said of her defense. "They are just playing as a unit. Tonight we really played as a team and they all did their jobs, and they did them well."
Tuesday, Ephrata carried the play for most of the first half but couldn’t solve Dallastown keeper Niki Bream, who made nine saves on the night.
"We pounded the cage but just were not finishing," Mountz said of her team’s first-half scoring woes. "We had opportunities on the corner posts and we weren’t able to get one in."
But the Lady Mounts regrouped at the half, and came out a blazing. Just 2:25 into the second stanza, Meredith Fagan took a pass from Nicole Wilkerson and beat Bream to draw first blood.
Then, less than four minutes later, Wilkerson, who had three assists on the night, fed Morgan Weaver to make it 2-0.
"We knew that we could definitely score but we were just kind of frustrated at half-time," Frees said. "There was a lack of communication. We knew what we had to fix, and it was just a matter of actually doing it. We went back out on the field determined that we were going to score within the first five minutes, and we scored two goals (during that stretch)."
Ephrata increased the lead to 3-0 just three minutes later when Meredith Michel, who has scored goals in four straight games, cashed in off a feed from Weaver. Brooke Overly then made it 4-0, scoring at the 15:34 mark off Wilkerson’s feed.
Dallastown, which closed out the season at 19-2), didn’t go down without a fight. Less than a minute after Overly’s goal, the Wildcats forced a stroke after a scrum in front of Ephrata keeper Katie Hammaker (13 saves). Haylee Anders delivered to cut the Ephrata lead to 4-1.
Then with a little more than five minutes to play, Rachel Anstine netted the second Dallastown goal. However, that was as close as the Wildcats would get as the Lady Mounts advanced with the big win.
"My goal for this team back in July was to win the section title and then to qualify for States," Mountz said. "They are on a mission, and they just keep playing better and better…we’ll see how far it takes us."
Next up, they’ll face a difficult test in Cumberland Valley, the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division champs whose lone blemish to the season came back on Sept. 21 in a 3-2 non-league loss to Warwick.
"We know that the competition is going to increase," Frees said. "We just have to keep the mindset that we have to play together as a team and we have to keep supporting each other, because without the teamwork we are not going to go anywhere."
Mountz said the key will be to focus on themselves, and the rest should take care of itself.
"We need to control what we can control and we need to take care of ourselves," she said. "And if we play like a team we can compete with the best of them. I’m convinced of that. We’ll give it our best shot."
In Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Governor Mifflin (9-10), Overly opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game when she tapped in a nice feed from Weaver, who carried down the right side and threw it in front.
Weaver then tallied a little more than two minutes later, deflecting in Wilkerson’s shot off a corner.
Ephrata’s third and final goal also came by way of a re-direction as Michel tipped an Overly shot into the back of the cage.
That was all the scoring the Lady Mounts needed as Hammaker made 11 saves on the day in the cage for Ephrata.
More FIELD HOCKEY, page B-8