Penn-Trafford field hockey closing the gap among state’s best teams

Sunday, November 14, 2021 | 11:01 AM

When Penn-Trafford field hockey coach Cindy Dutt looked back at the 2021 season, she cites a program on the verge of greatness.

Her Warriors have been the top team in Class 2A in Western Pennsylvania for six consecutive seasons, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.

When it comes to the state level, the Warriors lag behind, but Dutt sees the gap slowly closing. The Warriors are 0-7 against teams from the east.

Penn-Trafford has yet to crack the win column in the PIAA field hockey playoffs, but Dutt feels its coming.

Penn-Trafford dropped a 4-0 decision to an experienced and talented Fleetwood squad from District 3 (near Reading) in the PIAA Class 2A first round last week. The Tigers got a pair of goals from Casey Dewald in the win.

Fleetwood coach Joyce Angstadt said she worried about a slow start because of the long bus ride.

“We got here early enough so the girls could walk around and have a good warm up,” Angstadt said. “We knew that Ava Hershberger was very good, she controlled the ball, and the goalie (Gwen Hershberger) was very good. We watched some film on them and saw what teams were doing so we could defend them better.”

But Fleetwood’s overall experience put pressure on Penn-Trafford’s defense. The Tigers did to the Warriors what the Warriors are used to doing to their opponents.

“Gwen actually got to play a game,” Dutt said. “This was a good learning experience for the program. The girls got to see what they have to do to reach the teams in the eastern part of the state’s level.

“This team was the most prepared to compete on the state level. The girls gave it everything they had. They had a little more depth, but we were able to run for them.”

Dutt said there is a wide gap of overall playing experience between squads.

“It’s tough to play the teams from the east,” Dutt said. “When you look at the years of experience and combine all the years of all of our starters and compare the years of experience with their starters, those girls start in elementary school and we start in high school. I think we’re doing better each year.”

Penn-Trafford managed only one shot on goal, and Ava Hershberger ended the season with a school-record 38 goals.

The Warriors have won seven WPIAL titles.

“We have more girls play cup hockey,” Dutt said. “The future looks bright. We were able to play a lot of our underclassmen in some of the playoff games and in the scrimmage against Shady Side Academy.

“I feel we’re doing better each year. I feel the girls see what they can attain, and I feel they’re willing to work for it. We’ll be able to work together better as a team. It’s going to be tough because we graduated nine seniors.”

Penn-Trafford had six players earn All-WPIAL honors. They were the Hershbergers (Ava and Gwen), senior midfield Delaney Lentz, senior defender Payton Nicastro, senior midfielder Delaney Shusko and junior midfielder Madison Keenan (honorable mention).

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at


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