Penn-Trafford tops Latrobe to claim 7th straight WPIAL field hockey title

Saturday, October 29, 2022 | 7:05 PM

It never gets old.

So say members of the Penn-Trafford field hockey team on the age-old concept of winning, something the Warriors are accustomed to doing.

They continued their winning ways Saturday at the WPIAL championship, earning their seventh consecutive Class 2A title with a 4-1 victory over Latrobe at Washington & Jefferson.

Madison Keenan scored a goal and assisted on another, and Ella Morocco notched her fifth goal of the playoffs for Penn-Trafford (16-4), which won its 10th game in a row to advance to the PIAA tournament beginning Nov. 8.

“I’m not tired of it at all,” Penn-Trafford coach Cindy Dutt said.

But one thing sits atop the bucket list for the program: getting that elusive victory in the PIAA playoffs, where Penn-Trafford is 0-7.

“I feel terrific about our progress,” said Dutt, who founded the Penn-Trafford program in 2003. “This is one of the best games that our team together has played. We saved it for now. I asked the girls to be the best they could be today for each other because you need to be the best today.”

Keenan put Penn-Trafford on the board first with an unassisted goal with 6 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second quarter before Morocco, who scored four times in a 7-0 victory over Oakland Catholic in the semifinals, found the back of the cage with 4:38 left before halftime to give the Warriors a 2-0 advantage.

Gracie Eshelman’s unassisted goal with 10:23 remaining in the third quarter increased Penn-Trafford’s lead to 3-0 before Latrobe’s Emma Cowan answered with the Wildcats’ only score with 6:37 left in the third to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Ava Hershberger, an Ohio State recruit, scored an insurance goal for Penn-Trafford on an assist from Keenan with 5:30 to go in the game.

“I never get tired of this,” said Hershberger, a junior, who leads Penn-Trafford in scoring with 40 goals. “I hope we win in states now, but it’ll be a tough draw again because those kids (at eastern Pennsylvania schools) usually grow up playing field hockey.”

While she gladly will accept Penn-Trafford’s lopsided scores in the WPIAL playoff bracket, Hershberger was a bit surprised with the ease by which the Warriors disposed of Latrobe, whom they defeated twice in the regular season by scores of 4-2 and 3-2.

“I kind of expected us to put up four or five goals,” she said, “but I honestly thought Latrobe would score a few more goals and the game would be a little closer.”

For Latrobe coach Jeff Giordan, it’s just how the ball was bouncing.

“Obviously, this is not what we expected,” he said. “We expected a closer game, but we got one on the board, which is always a good thing.

“We talk about it all the time: Sometimes the bounces go, and sometimes the bounces don’t. Early on, we had the one bounce that went in for them. We could’ve gone in the tank. After the second one, we had to call timeout and settle them down. We’d been down like this before, so it wasn’t like it was anything new.”

But Latrobe (8-5-2), which saw a five-game winning streak stopped, had no answers for powerful Penn-Trafford.

“We’re getting closer,” Giordan said. “The only problem is this is the last time we’re going to be seeing this group. If somehow we can bridge the gap with new kids coming in to mesh with the players we still have … it’s definitely hard to replace what we’re going to be losing (18 seniors). Getting back here next year is going to be way more difficult without this group just because of what they’ve done so far.

“I wish we didn’t have to think about it quite so quickly.”

Dutt was relieved that her team was able to survive Latrobe’s challenge. She said the Wildcats were “terrific” and pointed to Penn-Trafford’s advantage in possession as a key to the victory.

“That made a big difference,” she said. “We were hoping not to play them again because they have some nice long hitters, and they had some hits that were really hard. Jeff has been a really amazing coach for years. That’s a really good team he’s got there. His seniors were phenomenal.”

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