The Episcopal Academy Churchwomen celebrate after winning the 2018 PAISAA field hockey championship - PSD Photo
BRYN MAWR, PA - Penalty shots…a rarity in high school field hockey. Luckily for Episcopal Academy, it was something that had been practiced specifically for the Pennsylvania Independent School’s Athletic Association field hockey state tournament.
“We only practiced them once. We’ve never done them in our lives,” said EA head coach Gina Buggy in reference to the game-ending penalty shots. “We practiced them specifically for this tournament, a week and a half ago, because we knew that was the overtime. So we ran through it once. Everyone did about three shots each and that was it.”
This brief preparation proved to be key in deciding the 2018 PAISAA champion, as Episcopal Academy narrowly edged Germantown Academy 2-1 in penalty shots in order to come away with a 4-3 victory and gold medal this past Tuesday.
“I think I was most proud of the way my team stayed so positive and unified,” said Buggy. “To come down to the sudden 15 minute period was testing, but I still thought we played well in that. And then at the end (in penalty shots) I think that the difference was the fact that they learned from the kids who went ahead of them. They maintained their poise and capitalized.”
Both teams fought extremely hard and certainly displayed why they belonged in the championship due to their intense play and sheer athleticism. In the opening half, EA senior Maddie Rehak found the back of the net off an assist from Boston University commit Gianna Pantaleo to give her team a 1-0 lead heading into the half.
“Gianna Pantaleo sent a ball across, and the goalie deflected it, and I just saw the ball sitting in front of the goal keeper. So I just dove and pushed my stick against the ball until it hit the backboard,” said Rehak, who will be playing at Bucknell next year. “I was just laying on the ground and didn’t even realize it went in until after when all my teammates came around and were cheering.”
The Churchwoman’s defense was charged by sophomore midfielder Kelly Smith, who was noticeably shutting down any runs GA was trying to make in the first half of the contest. Senior goalkeeper and Boston University commit Caroline Kelly recorded eight saves during regulation and one save during overtime.
“At the beginning I was just seeing how GA transitioned the ball and how they moved so I positioned myself so I could be in a good position for their long balls down the field and to bring the momentum forward when we had possession. After that it was just teamwork from there,” said Smith.
The second half started and ultimately ended in Episcopal Academy’s favor. Freshman and Duke University commit Macy Szukics scored in a scramble to give the Churchwomen an added 2-0 cushion.
That second goal was needed in what would then become the Sammy Popper show. The standout Germantown Academy senior and soon-to-be Princeton Tiger netted three goals to turn the tables with eight minutes remaining in regulation. Popper rose to the occasion and was not going to let her final game as a Patriot go down without a fight.
However, Szukics managed to net another goal to tie the game 3-3 less than one minute after Popper’s third goal, forcing a fatiguing overtime in which neither team was able to capitalize.
“Through the overtime, they had me man-marking Sammy Popper, which was really intense. I was just like ‘I have to do this, I have to stop the ball, I have to stay on her,’ because obviously we really wanted to win. We didn’t do all of this work for nothing, we really had it and we felt like we could win,” said Szukics.
In the shootouts, Kelly blanked four of GA’s shooters, allowing one goal by junior Catherine McFadden. Germantown Academy’s goal keeper Olivia McMichael made three fantastic saves during the shootout. In the end, Rehak and Pantaleo were able to maneuver past McMichael to win the title for the Churchwomen.
“I really tried to sell a shoulder fake and I pulled right and put it right behind the goalie,” said Rehak. “It was just confidence and practicing the week before for ten minutes was really helpful and boosted our confidence knowing that we could actually do it.”
Episcopal Academy ended the regular season with a 15-2-2 overall record (7-2-1 Inter-Ac) and Germantown Academy ended the season as outright champions of the Inter-Ac with a 8-1-1 league record (16-5-1 overall).