Spar­tans ad­vance to semis

Stelma’s goal enough for Val­ley West in state quar­ter­fi­nal.


SOUTH CEN­TRE TWP. — One year ago, Val­ley West field hockey made a state­ment.

The Spar­tans cashed in on early scor­ing chances with three first-half goals in a win against a na­tion­ally ranked Selins­grove team.

Many of the same el­e­ments were in play Satur­day, in­clud­ing the site, the stakes, and the end re­sult, al­though it un­folded in a much dif­fer­ent way.

Goal­keeper Syd­ney Rus­nock and her de­fense kept vic­tory within reach for Val­ley West, which fi­nally got the one and only goal it needed in the sec­ond half by Kar­a­line Stelma in a 1-0 win against Ban­gor in the PIAA Class 2A quar­ter­fi­nals at Cen­tral Columbia High School.

“It’s very frus­trat­ing be­cause you want to kind of make a big state­ment by scor­ing in the first half,” Stelma said. “But, we got it done. That’s all that mat­ters.”

Dis­trict 2 cham­pion Val­ley West (16-3-1) ad­vances to play in the semi­fi­nals Tues­day against Dis­trict 3 run­ner-up Palmyra.

Palmyra (18-5-1) won its quar­ter­fi­nal game, 2-1 in over­time, against Villa Maria. Villa Maria was the reign­ing state cham­pion af­ter beat­ing Val­ley West in the fi­nal last sea­son.

Mean­while, Dis­trict 11 cham­pion Ban­gor had its sea­son end at 21-2-1 — the all-time best sea­son in pro­gram his­tory.

“Even though we haven’t seen them, we heard they were re­ally good,” Stelma said. “So, we were just coming in with the mind­set of ‘We had to win this game no mat­ter how good they are.’”

Ban­gor proved its le­git­i­macy for all 60 min­utes Satur­day.

The Slaters forced six penalty cor­ners and drilled three shots on goal, a few of which forced Rus­nock to make out­stand­ing saves.

“She’s been amaz­ing all the years we’ve had her,” Diane Web­ster, Val­ley West’s long­time as­sis­tant and goalie coach, said of Rus­nock. “She does all kinds of stuff in the off­sea­son and ev­ery­thing to make her­self re­ally — in fact, in all the years I’ve been here, she’s one of the best goalies we’ve had come through Val­ley West.”

Rus­nock also re­ceived a boost from the de­fend­ers in front of her, in­clud­ing cen­ter­back Natalie Zasada, as well as Jil­lian Bon­czewski and Olivia Gayoski.

To­gether, the Val­ley West de­fense has recorded four con­sec­u­tive shutouts from the first game of the Dis­trict 2 tour­na­ment through Satur­day.

Once Val­ley West took its lead at the 17:57 mark, the Spar­tans de­fense clamped down al­low­ing Ban­gor hardly any mo­men­tum to find the equal­iz­ing goal.

Stelma’s goal came on an as­sist from Emily Latoski.

“She’s our team cap­tain and leads by ex­am­ple on and off the field,” Spar­tans head coach Linda Fithian said of Stelma.

Even af­ter the goal, Val­ley West kept ap­ply­ing pres­sure, like when Cameryn For­gash pushed a pos­si­ble in­sur­ance goal far-left with 6:30 to play.

Then with 2:45 left, Stelma got a clean shot off a cor­ner, but Ban­gor goal­keeper Mor­gan Pysher made an all-out dive to her right, block­ing the ball and de­flect­ing it out of bounds.

While she didn’t ap­pear in the box score, Val­ley West ju­nior Rina Tsi­oles also played an ex­cel­lent game on both sides of the ball from the mid­field po­si­tion.

“It feels great just to se­cure this win for us,” said Stelma, a se­nior who’s ver­bally com­mit­ted to play at Lock Haven. “My team­mates helped me through­out the way. If that pass didn’t come in, we wouldn’t have got­ten that goal. It’s a big team sport and I re­ally like help­ing out my team as much as I can.”

SEC­OND HALF: Kar­a­line Stelma (VW) from Emily Latoski, 17:57.

Shots: VW 11, Ban 3. Cor­ners: VW 10, Ban 6. Saves: VW (Syd­ney Rus­nock) 3, Ban (Mor­gan Pysher) 10.


Val­ley West’s Kar­a­line Stelma man­ages the ball dur­ing Satur­day’s state quar­ter­fi­nal game.


Val­ley West’s Emily Latoski con­trols the ball.

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