By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
HERSHEY -- One would have guessed Greenwood be thrilled with the opportunity to open the state field hockey tournament against a team it had beaten twice during the season.
"I was scared," Wildcats senior Brittany Fleisher said. "I'm not going to lie."
"All day we were all really nervous," said classmate Kenzie Wirth.
"Scared to death of this game," Greenwood coach Kent Houser admitted.
It wasn't lip service after their 3-0 win over Line Mountain at Hershey High. The truth is, their Tri-Valley League archrival tested the Wildcats like few teams, despite the losses, and Tuesday was no different.
Fleisher scored a goal with just over 2 minutes remaining in a first half that was played almost entirely in Greenwood's attacking end with few scoring chances to show for it.
However, Fleisher banged in another pair early in the second half, just 4 minutes apart, and the Wildcats' relentless defense handled matters from there.
"I thought this was a great defensive effort," said Houser. "(The Eagles are) a team that's really improving, and I thought our team defense was really good."
Greenwood (19-3-1), the District 3 runner-up, advanced to the Class AA quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. The Wildcats face District 5 champion Forbes Road, a 2-1 overtime winner against District 7 champ Shady Side Academy, on Saturday at a site and time to be announced.
Line Mountain, which finished second to Greenwood in the TVL and second to Selinsgrove in District 4, finished at 17-6.
"I was really pleased with the first half we played; I thought we executed our game plan well," said Eagles coach Jill Marz-Yisrael. "Second half, they just stepped up the intensity. We were helter-skelter there for a good eight minutes, and you can't do that at this level of the season.
"The best teams are going to make it hurt."
The Wildcats made a strong push for much of the first half with their defense preventing Line Mountain from stringing together more than pass or two at a time. The shots, though, weren't there as they always seemed to be a pass or player short in the circle.
"I thought we left a couple go by early where we had the good crosses and we didn't have that covered," said Houser. "We did a little better job of that (later)."
The Eagles consistently dug the ball out of their defensive end, which they also did well in the teams' most recent meeting Oct. 9, a 2-1 game.
"I was getting a little bit anxious and nervous at first, but when we kept it up there started to be more openings and options," said Wirth. "We all worked hard to make it happen."
The game's first score began with freshman Kelsey Keener (the only girl who played the entire game bare-armed) dribbling about half the field and earning the Wildcats' second corner. Though nothing came of the play, a long hit from Wirth on the right side found Fleisher just above the left post for a scoop into the upper netting.
That goal occurred with 2:17 left in the half; just 2:17 into the second half the pair pulled off a virtually identical play, from cross to finish.
"They were just -- especially on the turf -- they were rolling right across and I could easily get my stick on them," said Fleisher.
"Being able to see that, to cross it and know that Brittany would be there," said Wirth, "I was really proud of our teamwork and being able to connect like that."
The Eagles, who Martz-Yisrael believed looked "like one of the best teams in the state" while trading possession with Greenwood in the first half, faced a daunting two-goal deficit without a bit of a breakdown. Just two perfectly executed connections.
"Those first two goals? There's no way our goalie could stop them," she said. "That's just excellent hand-eye coordination. She was in a great position. There's really nothing a goalie's going to be able to do."
Minutes later, Wirth ripped another ball into the circle from the right side. Jordan Burkepile handled it initially and pushed it ahead to Fleisher for a sweep into the cage with 23:30 left.
"I thought Kenzie really made some nice reads on the crosses she made when the holes were there," said Houser, "(and) Brittany really had her stick on, that's for sure."
Martz-Yisrael burned her last timeout shortly after and the Eagles responded with a 3-to-4 minute push that had Greenwood keeper Katie Osborne off her line several times to challenge. Ciera Lahr ripped a few just wide of the frame, and Osborne sprawled to clear one dangerous ball in front.
"They're a very good defensive team fundamentally; they have great low sticks, strong defenders," said Martz-Yisrael. "That is something we've struggled with, against tough defensive teams, is being able to generate that attack."
In the end the teams' third game was more of the same: a Wildcats' win after Line Mountain made them work as hard as possible.
"They didn't win the league, but if they'd won this I feel like that would be better than winning the league," said Fleisher. "Just putting us out of any further chance of playing in states."