Fast start pro­pels Hur­ri­canes

Villa Maria uses three-goal first half to book spot in semi­fi­nals

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bill Ru­dick bru­dick55@gmail.com @bru­dick55 on Twit­ter

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.”

BILL RU­DICK — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Villa Maria play­ers cel­e­brate a first-half goal dur­ing Satur­day’s PIAA Class AA field hockey quar­ter­fi­nal against Sellins­grove at Twin Val­ley High School.

BILL RU­DICK — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Villa Maria’s Mary Harkins winds up for a shot in front of Sa­van­nah Buch­ler of Sellins­grove on Satur­day.

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