By James Williamson
PHILADELPHIA--This year marks the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup tournament to the world of Inter Ac field hockey. The Commonwealth Cup was created halfway through this season to give teams outside of the PA Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) playoff picture an extension to their season. Teams could continue to be involved in post-season tournament play adding a few extra games and a chance to walk away with a trophy.
The inaugural championship on Nov. 9 saw a heated matchup between Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCHA) and Penn Charter. The matchup took place on SCHA’s Class of 2016 turf field and would require an extra period to decide the winner. In the end, Springside Chestnut Hill proved victorious winning 3-2 in overtime to capture their first ever Commonwealth Cup.
"I feel really good,” said Springside Chestnut Hill senior captain Hannah Peirce. “You know, we've been working all season for it, so it's very rewarding.”
“It was such an awesome thing the PAISAA put together to keep schools that wanted to do something else, and it was so fun,” said Springside Chestnut Hill head coach, Emilee Ehret.
“I thought that game was so competitive. Penn Charter played awesome. You can tell that we all really wanted the Championship of the Commonwealth. So, it's a great new addition to the PAISAA postseason. I know we had a great time, and we were so stoked for our outcome. It’s really nice.”
The Blue Devils and Quakers were quite familiar with each other going into the matchup. The Commonwealth Cup Championship stood as the third time these two teams would face off this season. That familiarity gave senior captain Bella Tulio more confidence heading into the contest.
“I texted Emilee last night, I said, ‘we're going to win tomorrow.’ And she said, ‘Fingers crossed,’ look where we are now,” said Tulio.
“It was a great game. Penn Charter is one of our biggest rivals, so it was good to come out after tying them and then beating them before. So, I love to see it and get to bring home a championship my senior year,” said Tulio.
Peirce knew this contest would be a battle. Their previous meeting against the Quakers ended in a 0-0 tie, which proved the two teams had a lot in common.
“I think it made it a little bit more nerve racking because last time we tied zero zero. We knew we were going to really have to show up and have a lot of energy,” said Peirce.
Once the game was underway, it didn’t take long for the Blue Devils to score as junior Kaitlyn Melinson was able to find the back of the cage on a corner at the 11:22 minute mark of the first quarter. About seven minutes later, Penn Charter senior Amanda Ehrenhalt would tie the score at one goal a piece on a corner of her own. This score would hold for the remainder of the first half as defense and goalkeeping began to shine for both teams.
The third quarter would pick up where the first half left off with a whole lot of defense and nothing getting past either goalkeeper. Things would get much more exciting in the fourth quarter as both offenses broke out of their hibernation. Within minutes of the start of the quarter, Springside Chestnut Hill freshman Devyn Conlan was able to score the tie-breaking goal on a breakaway up the field. The lead would not last long though as Penn Charter senior Ella Curci was able to sneak one past SCH’s goalie off an Ehrenhalt pass to tie the score 2-2.
The tie would hold for the duration of the fourth quarter, setting up for an exciting conclusion. Penn Charter had an opportunity late in the fourth to take the lead after a member of the Blue Devil’s team was given a green card with only a handful of minutes remaining in regulation. Shortly after, with less than a minute left on the clock, Penn Charter would set up for a corner shot to potentially win the game. Then, just before the whistle blew to start play, another Blue Devil had to leave the field due to a medical issue.
Now down two players with the game on the line, SCHA needed a stop. Luckily for SCHA, the Quakers mishandled the pass coming from the corner and had to quickly take a shot, which then went wide to the left of the cage. Despite being at a disadvantage, SCHA was able to survive and force the game into overtime.
“I told them when they came off girls, you played two players down with a girl sick on the sideline. We didn't really know what to sub and a girl getting green carded. We didn't know what was going on,” said Ehret. “You held them to no goals in that two-minute time span. That speaks volumes to know how composed you were on the ball and how you were able to play really solid defense. That got us super pumped going into overtime.”
“We do it for each other. I think when we lose a girl, everybody knows they have to fill the spot of that girl, no matter if it's through heart or through energy. And I think that's what we did today,” said Tulio. “I think no matter who's on the field, we all know we're working together and we're all doing this for the team.”
Going into overtime, it was anyone’s game with Springside Chestnut Hill returning to full strength. About three minutes into the overtime period, Springside set up for a corner shot and Conlan scored her second goal of the game, this one winning the first-ever Commonwealth Cup for the Blue Devils. Her twin sister freshman goalie Colleen Conlan recorded her 200th career save during the final game.
“It’s so awesome and to end on an overtime win was really great,” said Ehret. “And you know, that's always so thrilling for the girls, and we've always come away really tight with Penn Charter. It was a great ending.”
“This means everything. It's our first field hockey championship for SCH,” said Tulio. “I get to leave it with my coach, get to leave it with my teammates, and I get to walk away knowing that we won a championship and that we're all going to do this together.”
This Commonwealth Cup victory should serve as a nice boost going into next season for the Blue Devils.
“Hopefully, we can get some more hockey players at our school. Hopefully, we'll be seen as a bigger threat and hopefully people won’t think to take us lightly,” said Tulio. “I know we're going to step it up this next year, and I know everyone's going to follow through with the same mentality and want to win the chip again.”
Ehret, is excited to see what the Commonwealth Cup can become and how more teams could join in on the tournament in years to come.
“I definitely see two divisions in PAISAA. It’s almost like the NCAA March Madness and the NIT (National Invitation Tournament). So, it's similar to that. I hope that it definitely becomes a bigger bracket on each end. I want more teams to get involved,” said Ehret. “This could be a great way to get more schools wanting to participate in both post-season tournaments.”