Penn-Trafford field hockey star Ava Hershberger ‘determined to be the best’

Sunday, October 17, 2021 | 11:01 AM

A rare thing happened Oct. 12 to Penn-Trafford sophomore Ava Hershberger.

The WPIAL’s field hockey leading scorer didn’t contribute a point in her team’s 2-0 victory against Fox Chapel that clinched the Class 2A section title.

Hershberger has been a scoring machine for the Warriors, tallying 28 goal and seven assists. She’s eyeing the school record of 34 held by Amanda Steffey.

But Fox Chapel marked her with a player the entire game, and if a ball came to her, that defender got help. While she didn’t score or add an assist in a game, her presence opened up the field for other players to step up, and that’s exactly what Delaney Shusko and Maddy Keenan did, finding the back of the cage.

“Ava played a great game,” Penn-Trafford coach Cindy Dutt said. “She hit the post a couple times, and she occupied the attention of other defenders which allowed others to get chances.”

Hershberger is an elite player. She’s a great stick handler with high-end speed. She discovered she loved the sport at piano lessons when her teacher’s daughter, Tara Zollinger, was home from college and Hershberger quickly started to enjoy field hockey more than playing the piano.

Her dad got her involved in ice hockey, and then eventually into field hockey and softball. Because of practice schedules, she eventually gave up softball.

“She has incredible stick work,” Dutt said. “She started when she was really young. She has an older sister (Gwen) who is a goalkeeper and that’s what they do. She shoots on her sister all of the time. They actually have a goal cage in the backyard.

“She’s determined to be the best and what she can be and she’d like to play in college. She lives hockey.”

Dutt said she saw at an early age that Hershberger was going to be a special player.

“She started playing at the YWCA and then moved on to club field hockey,” Dutt said. “She plays for the Pittsburgh Venom on different age teams. The sky is the limit for her. If she decides to do something, she works at it and does it.”

Hershberger likes field hockey because it’s different.

“It’s not a real popular sport in the Pittsburgh area, but I think it is fun that I do something different,” Hershberger said. “You meet a lot of people and make close friends. The sport is starting to become more popular at Penn-Trafford because some of the girls on the team are playing club.”

And when she wants to get some practice in, her sister Gwen is ready to go to work.

“Gwen and I practice together a lot,” Hershberger said. “Some of our favorite memories are when it is snowing and we are here (at Warrior Stadium) playing.

“I always like to go outside and shoot or play around in the basement. It’s just building muscle memory of it. I’ve been doing it so many years, it comes natural for me.”

Asked what makes her sister so special, Gwen responded: “Me. We talk about her shot and I give her tips on what she can do.”

When is it comes to playing the game, Dutt is able to put Hershberger in any position and she excels.

Hershberger said her stick skills and being able to see the field are her strengths. She said she tries to focus on what’s in front of her.

“She can move into a support role where she can distribute the ball,” Dutt said. “We did that to move Fox Chapel’s defense around. She’s an unselfish player.”

Hershberger began playing at age 5. Now the 15-year-old is focused on helping Penn-Trafford win a sixth consecutive WPIAL title.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .


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