HERSHEY - Two halves? More like two games for Greenwood Tuesday, as the No. 2 Wildcats made their debut in the District 3 Class AA field hockey tournament.
Luckily, the second-half effort was better than the first. After a dismal 30 minutes that sent the teams off the field at Hershey High School scoreless, Greenwood turned on the jets and buried the ball, getting goals from four different players in a 4-0 shutout of Lancaster Catholic.
Greenwood advances to play Lancaster Mennonite, a 4-1 winner over West Perry, Saturday at a site and time to be determined. The winner of that game is guaranteed a state playoff berth; the loser can still advance in the consolation bracket.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Greenwood’s Mallory Fortenbaugh, left, and Jordan Burkepile (11) corral Lancaster Catholic’s Maggie Anater with the ball during their District 3 Class AA field hockey first-round game Tuesday in Hershey.
Whatever the Wildcats were missing early in the game, they found early after the break. The second half opened with the tie being broken when Greenwood pushed down to the circle, forced its 12th penalty corner of the game and finally converted.
Mackenzie Wirth scored the goal, shooting high toward the post from the middle of the circle and getting a small push of Crusader goalie Haley Wolf's blocker as the ball went in. Hattie Kuhns delivered the ball on an insertion from Mallory Fortenbaugh.
"I thought the second game was better, too," Greenwood coach Kent Houser said, referencing the complete turnaround his team was able to make.
"We just had to start doing some little things better," he said. "We were playing great individually I thought, but weren't putting things together as a team. We were playing a little bit too much big ball instead of passing the ball."
Wolf, who had barely been tested in the opening half, looked very beatable on that play. But she was less than vulnerable as more opportunities came up dry for the eventual winners over the next 10 minutes of play. Forced corners were at least leading to shots - which wasn't the case in the opening stanza - but they were wide, or deflected.
Defensive play by the Crusaders - especially Mia Anater in the backfield - frustrated Greenwood's efforts, and midway through the half, Lancaster Catholic took the ball upfield for the first time since the half and tried to create a chance to equal the score.
It didn't happen - but that's when Greenwood truly woke up.
"The first half in particular I thought they did a great job," Houser said. "We had the ball down there the whole time. We only had three shots on 11 corners and a lot of possession."
But again, he said, that was more his team's problem than anything Lancaster Catholic was doing, at least in terms of offense. The Wildcats didn't have any cohesiveness in the first half, if they had, they may well have scored. In the second half, they had enough drive and determination to keep the game flowing in their direction.
About a minute after the Crusaders' trip, the ball came back and Lauren Fried teamed up with Brittany Fleisher to make it 2-0; Fried stroked one from the top of the circle, a shot that resulted from corner play.
Just inside the nine-minute mark, Fortenbaugh was in place for a whack at the goal on a third-chance rebound. And with four minutes to play, Katie Barton converted from the front when Wolf was on the ground after she and Kuhns drove down the field almost untouched.
It was missed opportunities in both halves that frustrated Houser, especially in the first, when 11 corners created only three shots on goal. One, a blast by Taylor Tompkins, was ruled to have been shot outside the circle, which denied the Perry County team an early advantage.
"I wasn't too happy there," Houser said. "That thing's humongous - if we score of off that on a good power corner, that's something they've got to play for the rest of the time and takes the pressure off us."
Later in the contest, Greenwood was unable to convert when awarded a penalty stroke with 18:14 to go in the game. And 11 minutes after that, Jordan Burkepile had an open goal with Wolf down, but dinged the near post.