FIELD HOCKEY: Palmyra, A-C, Elco set for districts
Three Lebanon County field hockey teams - perennial power Palmyra, Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3 champ Annville-Cleona, and a resurgent Elco program - will open play in the District 3 playoffs this week.
What's in store for the locals? Well, we won't know that for sure until they hit the field this week, but we'll try to make some educated guesses via the capsule previews that follow.
Here's a closer look at the impending district playoff journeys for Palmyra, A-C and Elco:
Record, seed: 16-2, No. 2 seed in 3A
First game: The Cougars drew a first round bye on Wednesday and will meet the winner of Dallastown and Central Dauphin on Saturday in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.
Coach: Kristi Costello
Key players: Senior midfielder Jess Dembrowski (20 goals, 10 assists), junior forward Lexy Smith (18 goals, 4 assists), senior midfielder Katelyn Mark (12 goals, 6 assists), senior goalie Cheyenne Sprecher (78.4 save percentage).
Breaking it down: Palmyra missed a chance to defend its Mid-Penn Conference title after being swept by Keystone Division rival Hershey in the regular season, but those were its only two losses against a typically challenging schedule.
In other words, the Cougars, led by catalyst Dembrowski, should not be taken lightly. Assuming a quarterfinal win, which Palmyra surely won't do, a potential rematch looms with No. 3 seed Hershey in the semifinals. Penn Manor is the team to beat in 3A, but the survivor of Palmyra-Hershey III, if it happens, certainly won't roll over for the Comets.
Record, seed: 17-2, seeded 5th in 1A
First game: A-C takes on No. 12 Wyomissing at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Milton Hershey.
Coach: Sue Felty
Key players: Senior forward Michaela Singer (22 goals, 2 assists), senior forward Emily Fiebig (16 goals, 10 assists), junior midfielder Katelyn Brightbill (16 goals, 5 assists).
Breaking it down: A-C had quite the regular season, winning 17 games on the way to its first section title in a mere 44 years, and would love nothing more than to make a little postseason noise as well.
The 1A bracket is a formidable one, fronted by longtime powers and top seeds Oley Valley and Greenwood, but A-C is a quality team that has more than earned its No. 5 seed. If they can avoid being intimidated by their surroundings the Dutchmen could be a tough out, given the scoring punch Singer, Fiebig and Brightbill provide.
Should be interesting to see how A-C fares after a 4-0 loss to Warwick in the L-L playoffs that provided a needed test.
Record, seed: 11-6-1, seeded 13th in 1A
First game: The Raiders meet No.4 Schuylkill Valley on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Exeter.
Coach: Lisa Kercher
Key players: Junior forward Katie Fields (10 goals), senior forward Emily Witmer (8 goals, 7 assists), sophomore forward Abbie Keath (8 goals, 3 assists), junior goalie Kendra Bicksler (103 saves)
Breaking it down: Fresh off its first winning season since 2008, the Raiders face a stern opening test against No.4 Schuylkill Valley, which comes in at 16-2 and with both of its losses to Twin Valley.
Elco has some scoring punch with Fields, Witmer and Keath, and a solid defense anchored by Bicksler and back Siearra Swingholm, but will need to be at the very top of its game to have a chance here.
Still, the Raiders are very deserving of their postseason invitation and should be able to play with a nothing-to-lose attitude here. If it can pull off the upset, Elco could earn a date with Annville-Cleona in the second round. That would be fun.