Fast start propels Hurricanes
Villa Maria uses three-goal first half to book spot in semifinals
ELVERSON >> After watching Donegal blow past AACA rival Mount St. Joseph, 10-1, the Villa Maria field hockey team went to work on a dominating victory of its own.
The Hurricanes posted three first-half goals, and added a pair in the second to knock off District 4 champion Selinsgrove, 5-1, in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AA Tournament Saturday at Twin Valley High School.
The victory sets up a rematch of last year’s semifinal against Donegal on Tuesday, at a site and time to be determined.
“I think we’ve been playing better,” said Villa goalie Danielle Acuna. “It’s all about a mindset. When we’ve got the right mindset, our passes are sharper, and we just work as a team. We all know we have the skill and ability to go far. We just have to play that way. I can’t wait to play the next round.”
The Hurricanes were simply dominant in the early going. Not only did Selinsgrove fail to bring
“I think we’ve been playing better. It’s all about a mindset. When we’ve got the right mindset, our passes are sharper, and we just work as a team. We all know we have the skill and ability to go far. We just have to play that way. I can’t wait to play the next round.” – Villa Maria goalie Danielle Acuna
the ball across midfield over the first 10 minutes, most of the action took place inside 30 yards of its cage. But despite several chances by Villa, the game was scoreless.
Just over ten minutes in, that changed. Hannah Miller sent a nice cross over to Annina Iacobucci, who slammed it home for the game’s opening tally.
“I just happened to be there in the right spot,” said Iacobucci. “We did a great job moving the ball inside the circle and someone just gave me a great ball, and I put it in.”
Barely 30 seconds later, the Hurricanes were awarded a penalty corner, and once again, were pressuring Selinsgrove goalie Megan Kahn. Eventually, Kahn was called for a foul, and Villa was awarded a penalty stroke. Iacobucci left no doubt on the stroke, sending a rocket into the back of the cage.
“We practice penalty strokes all the time,” said Iacobucci. “Making or stopping
a stroke can mean the difference in a game. I was nervous setting up, but confident I was going to make it.”
The penalty stroke actually seemed to energize the Seals, as they began their first serious offense threats of the game. Selinsgove began to pepper Acuna with shots, and forced five penalty corners over a five minutes span. But Acuna made some spectacular saves, as she and her defensive teammates weathered the storm unscathed.
“Having to defend so many corners like that can be a little scary,” said Acuna. “But we all know we have each other’s backs, and were feeling very secure in what we were doing and that we’d be fine in the end.”
What mattered most, though, was that the zero stayed on the Seals’ side of the board.
“We had gotten a little sloppy there,” said Villa coach Daan Polders. “But Danielle and the defense did a good job baling us out, and I thought we solidified our play after that.”
Mary Harkins made it a 3-0 lead by halftime, taking a pass from Lindsay Dickinson and scoring on a reverse, then put the game away with second-half goals from Jen Finley and Emily Doyle.
Selinsgrove’s lone score came with 11:30 to play, when Jessica Smith connected unassisted.
There will be little time to celebrate the win, though, as the Hurricanes must now gear up for what promises to be an electric game against Donegal, with a chance to reach the state championship game for the fifth time in six years. Last year’s match-up was a doozy, with the Hurricanes escaping with a 5-4 win.
“That’s what field hockey is all about,” said Polders. “Those are the games that are fun, when two good teams battle it out. I want to play games like that, and I want to see the players get to play games like that. You want to play in those games that are a real challenge.”
Villa Maria players celebrate a first-half goal during Saturday’s PIAA Class AA field hockey quarterfinal against Sellinsgrove at Twin Valley High School.
Villa Maria’s Mary Harkins winds up for a shot in front of Savannah Buchler of Sellinsgrove on Saturday.