HUMMLESTOWN - Last year, when the Greenwood field hockey team lost the District 3 Class AA championship to Palmyra, freshman Mallory Fortenbaugh wasn't yet in high school.
Wednesday, when the Wildcats defeated Hamburg 3-2 to again qualify for the District 3 championship, Fortenbaugh's hat trick displayed what an asset she is to her team, despite her youth.
With the win, Greenwood (17-2-1) advances to play Oley Valley (19-4) at Milton Hershey on Saturday. Oley Valley defeated Donegal 1-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the District 3 Class AA championship match.
But to watch the Wildcats on Wednesday, it was obvious they weren't focused on any match but the one against Hamburg. Both teams came out firing at the first whistle, fighting back and forth in the middle of the field for possession of the ball, but it was Greenwood, off the stick of Fortenbaugh, which struck first.
Junior Hattie Kuhns started out the scoring play by dribbling past Hamburg's defenders to the baseline at the right side of the cage. From there, she shot a rocket across field to Fortenbaugh, who was right in front of the cage for the score. It was the very first shot of the game, and the Wildcats took advantage of it to jump on top with a 1-0 score.
This all happened just over five minutes into the match, and for the next couple of minutes the Wildcats continued to pressure Hamburg's defense as Kuhns and Fortenbaugh attempted several times to score on a play similar to that used in their first goal.
* Greenwood plays Oley Valley Saturday at Milton-Hershey
But, although Hamburg was down one, it certainly wasn't out of the match, and as the half progressed the Hawks started their own offensive strike against the Wildcats.
"I thought we started the game right away, and then we kind of got away from what we wanted to do," Greenwood coach Kent Houser said. "And I give Hamburg credit for that - they kind of got us out of our game and they were really taking it to us there."
Before the half was over, Hamburg scored two goals against Greenwood, one on a Karlie Heistand breakaway that Greenwood keeper Katie Osborne couldn't handle, and the second on Brianna Richards stroke after a scrum in front of Greenwood's cage. But, if there was one thing that marked the Wildcat's effort on Wednesday evening, it was resilience, and they weren't about to let Hamburg keep the lead going into the half.
With the score at 2-1 in Hamburg's favor and just seconds left in the first half, Greenwood attacked Hamburg's cage and was awarded a penalty corner. Fortenbaugh, who was to be the beneficiary of her own ball placement, sent the ball, got in good position, and took another pass from Kuhns to cinch it up at two going into the half. Time ran out on the clock as the scoring play was brought to completion.
"The second half we did exactly what we wanted to do. We tightened up our defense, took a way a couple of the passing lanes, and possessed the ball instead of playing it a little looser," Houser said.
And maybe it's because the Wildcats were able to tighten up their style of play that they won the game.
In the second half, Fortenbaugh again scored during a penalty corner, this time on a pass from Brittany Fleisher at 22:51, and that was all they would need to win. For the rest of the half, it was a battle to see if the Wildcats could hold off the Hawks until the final whistle, and hold off the Hawks they did.
"The kids just stayed with it, kept working hard, and we got some good results finally," Houser said. "I thought we really showed a lot of composure tonight. We didn't panic giving up goals. I think that was our second time we've given up two all year."
This type of composure was epitomized by goalie Katie Osborne with about 10 minutes left in the game. After breaking past the defense, Hamburg's Hannah Shirk sprinted downfield for a one-on-one confrontation with Osborne, but Osborne played it cool, rushed out to take away Shirk's angle, and deflected the play before Shirk could even get off a shot.
On Saturday, as Greenwood attempts to take the District 3 title it just barely missed last year, Houser has one thing on his mind-play hard.
"We just want to go out and play the best we can play. That's what we're going to attempt to do."