By: Mark Zimmaro
CONSHOHOCKEN, PA – It was a nightmare of a start, but a dream finish.
The Episcopal Academy field hockey team couldn’t have had a worse start to their PAISAA State Championship game, yielding a goal in the opening minute to the Hill School at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken on Wednesday.
A wild ride ensued only to see senior Ashley Sessa score the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation to give the Churchwomen a 3-2 victory and their third straight state title.
Shock was still wearing off for both squads after a dramatic finish. For some, it hadn’t even sunk in yet.
“No not really,” Sessa admitted. “We played them last year and it was another amazing game. But we came out on top and we came out on top again. It’s still surreal.”
Fortunately for Episcopal Academy, the shock of allowing the opening goal about 30 seconds into the game wore off quickly.
“We were all taken aback (when Hill School scored),” EA senior Macy Szukics said. “But we all kind of gathered together and said we work for each other, we’re a team together so we need to have each other’s backs now. Now’s the moment we need to click in and go get that goal and get it back.”
The Churchwomen pummeled the opposing net but couldn’t find the answer through the first period. That all changed midway through the second when Szukics found a rebound on a penalty corner and tied the game with just over eight minutes left in the first half.
“Yes, I scored it, but I couldn’t have done it without my team,” Szukics said humbly. “It was off of a rebound. If my teammate wouldn’t have hit that ball in, I wouldn’t have been there to get that short little rebound and push in the goal.”
EA senior Ashley Sessa was named PSD's Player of the Game after scoring the championship-winning goal in the final minute of play - PSD Photo by Mark Zimmaro
Szukics made a habit out of being in the right spot as she scored a nearly identical goal a few minutes later to put Episcopal Academy up 2-1. On another penalty corner, Szukics waited for a loose ball to squirt out of the pile and she knocked home her second of the game.
That advantage lasted until just over five minutes left in the game, when Hill School’s Riley Savage got her second of the game on a successful penalty corner.
Just a handful of minutes away from a celebration, Episcopal needed once again to regroup quickly.
“We’ve trained for this our whole season,” Sessa said. “Yes, we’re very tired but we play better when we’re tired because we have great mental skills and we came together as a team and got it in.”
Sessa did the honors on a terrific reverse chip off a couple of tight passes. Charlotte Bruder pushed the ball into the circle to Mia Garber, who fended off the defense and pushed the ball in front of Sessa, who used a burst of speed and one touch before drilling a reverse shot to the back of the cage with just 50 seconds remaining.
“We do a lot of those shots in practice so it was just another practice,” Sessa said.
Practice made perfect.
Episcopal’s senior class went three-for-three in winning the state championship after there was no state tournament last year due to the pandemic.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
“It’s so cool for us,” Szukics said. “We’re all so proud of everyone and it couldn’t have been a better experience with EA field hockey.”