Cocalico. Sounds like a drink that might be served on a beach with a little umbrella for decoration. It’s actually a high school in Denver, Pa., and last Wednesday night an encounter with the field hockey team from the Lancaster County institution brought the post-season party to an end for Mount St. Joseph Academy.
In a Class AAA state semifinal game played just outside of Reading, the MSJ Magic couldn’t get anything past Cocalico senior goalie Haley Mitchell (15 saves), while the Eagles scored in each half to claim a 2-0 victory. In the PIAA finals on Saturday, Cocalico suffered a 2-1 setback against the top-ranked team in the nation, Emmaus High School, which captured its 10th state championship.
For Mount St. Joe, the season ended under significantly better circumstances than the 2009 campaign. Last year the Magic lost a District 1 play-in game and broke a streak of state tournament appearances.
This fall, the Mount won the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies championship for the first time since 2007, and then went through to the finals of the PIAA District 1 tournament. With a 1-0 loss in the title game against Wissahickon High School, the Magic moved on to States as the District 1 second seed.
Wissahickon was eliminated in the first round of the state tourney by Hempfield, the fourth seed from formidable District 3 in south central Pennsylvania.
Cocalico made it into the state tournament by winning District 3’s consolation play-in bracket, attending the PIAA dance as a number five seed. Mitchell, the Eagles’ keeper, would give up a total of just six goals in eight district and state tournament contests, chalking up four shutouts along the way.
The last of those whitewashes came against Mount St. Joseph, and it wasn’t down to a lack of scoring opportunities for the Magic.
“They really spread out their formation and they were able to transfer the ball on us from the right to the left side,” noted Mount coach Lois Weber. “They played an up-tempo game and they did a lot of quick restarts that had us off-balance. Still, what really hurt us was our inability to finish and score. We had more corners and more shots than they did, but their goalie played very, very well.”
Cocalico made its first mark on the scoreboard with a little over eight minutes remaining in the first half, when a well-executed penalty corner culminated in a goal by senior Courtney Ueberroth. Later in the first half Mount junior Brooke Sabia penetrated towards the right post and launched a promising shot, but Mitchell foiled the attempt with one of her many diving saves during the game.
“There were other plays like that in the second half,” Coach Weber recalled. “Just off the top of my head I can think of three or four times when their goalie made really athletic stops.”
The Magic’s hopes faded when Cocalico junior Liza Morgan gave the Eagles an insurance goal with 8:34 left in the game.
The MSJ coaches had scouted Cocalico in a quarterfinal contest, and had made some adjustments to their penalty corners.
“We saw that they flew to the ball very quickly so that in most cases a direct shot wasn’t going to work,” Weber said. “Instead, we inserted the ball and then crossed it high in the circle to take a shot from the opposite side. That was effective and we were able to get off our shots most of the time, but [Mitchell] just stopped everything. If we’d been able to score that first goal we might have picked up some momentum, but it never happened.
“Of course, the girls were upset,” the coach continued, “but if you’d told them back in August that we’d win our league and play in the district finals and the state semifinals, they would’ve looked on that as a very successful season.”