By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert, Mike Nance & Geanine Jamison
PHILADELPHIA – Although there were no champions in the Catholic League this fall, that hasn’t stopped teams from rapidly progressing since September with aspirations of seizing a PIAA state title.
For Archbishop Wood, Conwell-Egan, and Archbishop Carroll – each of them recently crowned as PIAA District 12 champions – three more victories would change a dream into a reality.
A formidable challenge, however, lies ahead.
“We are just so grateful to have this season after almost being cancelled,” said Archbishop Wood senior Paige Hoeger. “We make the most of every minute we have on the field.”
On November 10, Wood needed to defeat St. Basil’s Academy in a first-round contest. The Vikings took care of business, overwhelming the District 1 champs, 6-0, to reach the PIAA Class 2A state quarterfinals. Sophomore Shaina Klos scored twice while junior Megan Hickey, junior Emily Beck, senior Leighann Kafel, and Hoeger added one apiece.
On Saturday at 5:30 PM, the Vikings will travel to Emmaus High School to face District 11 champ Allentown Central Catholic.
“In the Basil’s game, we came out with so much energy,” said Hoeger, a two-time All-Catholic who next year will play at Division I Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). “We knew that couldn’t be our last game. Once we started connecting, we put a lot of pressure on Basil’s and finished the game strong.”
The Vikings aim to improve upon last year’s state semifinal loss.
“Personally as a senior, I want to do everything I can to help us get all the way, because this program and team has meant so much to me,” said Hoeger. “This group of girls has a lot of heart, and we won’t go down without a fight.”
In a Class 1A nail biter, Conwell-Egan defeated District 1 rep Dock Mennonite. After a scoreless regulation and overtime, the Eagles won in penalty kicks, 4-2. C-E erased a 2-1 deficit by converting three straight, the clincher off the foot of freshman Constance Wojton.
On Saturday at 2 PM, the Eagles will face District 3 champion Fairfield at Gettysburg Middle School.
“It was a great team win for us,” said Conwell-Egan senior Gia Brennan. “We came out strong, and you could tell we never gave up for the whole 110 minutes. Everyone elevated their game because the stakes where so high. Now we need to continue to play at this level as the stakes get higher.”
Archbishop Carroll did not play a first-round match. On Saturday at 1:00, the Patriots will meet perennial power and District 3 champ Cumberland Valley, in a Class 4A battle at Eagle View Middle School in Mechanicsburg.
“We are all very excited for this big game against Cumberland Valley, and we have been working really hard to get to this point for the past few years,” said senior Kayla Demola. “This is a really big game for us, but I know we are ready to take on the challenge and give it our all.
“Winning this game would be huge for us; however, no matter the outcome, I am so proud of my team and everything we have accomplished so far this year.”
In a Class 3A first-round game, District 12 champion Archbishop Ryan dropped a heartbreaking decision at District 11 champ Northwestern Lehigh, 5-3, in penalty kicks.
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)