CONSHOHOCKEN, PA--Once again, it came down to top-seeded The Hill School hosting third-seeded The Episcopal Academy in the Pennsylvania Independent Scholastic Athletic Association (PAISAA) field hockey championship game on Wednesday, November 16th at The Proving Grounds. It was a different outcome this year as The Hill School emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins, 3-2.
“We knew we were going to have to fight for everything we got today,” said Hill School head coach Jennifer Weissbach. “It was going to be 60 tough minutes of field hockey. We were prepared. We were ready. We were really excited to compete against a great team.”
Episcopal Academy (EA) went into this game looking to recapture the PAISAA trophy as it narrowly upset Hill School in 2019 and yet again in 2021 after a 2020 hiatus due to COVID-19.
“Coming in, I knew we were underdogs,” said EA senior midfielder Charly Bruder (Univ. of North Carolina). “We worked really hard to get here. The outcome doesn’t really show how we played.”
Being a well-connected squad helped The Hill School (21-1) walk off of the field with a win as well as a state title in this crucial match. After falling to EA in the final state round in back-to-back seasons, the Hill School was all the more motivated to change this season's outcome.
A goal by Hill School freshman Opal Sparling with time running out was all that it took for that to happen.
“I feel like because last year we lost, we really had the motivation to get together and win it for us,” said Sparling.
EA junior forward Paige McMeekin a Bucknell Univ. committ drove the ball to the net allowing Junior Bella Notoro's quick turn to score the first goal with 3:26 to play in the opening quarter giving the Churchwomen an early 1-0 advantage.
“We started with the ball from the backfield,” said McMeekin. “It was just our in and out passes and eventually our goal. It helped us in the beginning of the game to get some momentum.”
EA held on to its lead for a while but Hill School sophomore forward Riley Savage scored to make it a tie game with 3:26 in the first half. Sophomore forward Aubrey Turner provided the assist.
Savage extended her run to 2-0 with another goal early in the second half. Hanging on to its lead midway through the fourth quarter, The Hill School had its eyes on the trophy, but Bruder had other plans and tied it up with 7:44 left in regulation.
“They put Hill in a position that they aren’t in often,” said EA head coach Paul Zelenak. “It was a close game late. Our team was confident in the situation.”
With the state championship on the line, EA used a time out with 4:46 on the clock.
Sparling, with 32 seconds remaining, saw her big moment and off a pass from Jaedyn Scarlatos, Sparling scored the game winning goal emitting joyous screams from her teammates and Hill spectators.
“We were really motivated at the end,” said Sparling. “I knew I had to get it in.”
Junior goalkeeper Isabel Andrews paced EA’s defense. It was quite a defensive game with a total of 21 defensive corners and only giving up three goals.
“I think we played our heart out,” said Andrews. “I’m really proud of us.”
Senior goalkeeper Hala Silverstein (University of Michigan) and senior defender Kate Longo along with freshman center back Sofia Ferri kept The Hill School’s defense in check.
“We came into the year with a lot of talented backs,” said Silverstein. “Our subs are also amazing. A lot of our defense is structured on communication and just trusting each other. For this game we really focused on stepping to any shots, and I think we did a pretty good job.”
The Churchwomen had a run nothing to scoff at ending their season with an outstanding (17-3-2) record.
“Our team grew every game this season,” said Coach Zelenak. “We really improved through the year. I’m really, really proud of the team.”