Peters Township tops No. 2 Pine-Richland to capture WPIAL Class AAA field hockey title

Monday, October 29, 2018 | 11:03 PM

It was a win that was eight years in the making, and Peters Township senior midfielder Greta Schratz was born for championship moments.

After a blocking penalty was called on a Pine-Richland defender deep in the Rams defensive zone with 9 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the overtime period, it was Schratz’s time to shine.

Shratz gripped her stick, took her place on the field, looked up at Rams goalie Abigail Baratka, looked down at the ball, paused and then fired a shot to the bottom left corner of the goal for the game-winner as the top-seeded Indians downed defending champion and No. 2 Pine-Richland, 2-1, in overtime to claim the WPIAL Class AAA field hockey title at Fox Chapel Monday night.

“I knew ultimately I just had to do it for my team,” Schratz said. “I just said a quick ‘Our Father,’ closed my eyes and just put the ball in. As soon as I heard it hit the backboard, I just knew that was it.”

Peters Township (9-0-1) claimed its first WPIAL title since 2009. The Indians will move on to the PIAA playoffs to face the District 3 third-place finisher. The loss sends Pine-Richland (6-2-2) out east to face the District 3 runner-up. Both teams will pick up play Nov. 6, with the sites, times and opponents to be determined.

“Hat’s off to Peters (Township); they’re a strong team and we fight with them every year,” Pine-Richland coach Donna Stephenson said. “Every game, it’s tough competition. They’re a strong team, and it’s fun playing them in a championship game.”

For Peters Township coach Amy Casciola, the championship was the byproduct of eight years of hard work that began in grade school and ended with a WPIAL title.

“These seniors were my fifth-grade team when I started the youth program, and I have gone with them all the way,” Casciola said. “When I started the youth program, it was for moments like this.”

The Rams played like the defending champs from the onset. Both teams pushed the ball deep into one another’s zones but was quickly cleared away and out. Peters looked to take an early lead, but the goal was waved off.

Pine-Richland got on the board by crowding Peters goalie Megan Casciola before Heidi Van Dyk slipped a shot into the cage to give the Rams a 1-0 lead with 21:55 remaining in the first half.

The Rams’ defense fended off a number of the Indians’ rushes, including back-to-back penalty corner shots late in the first half, but nevertheless, took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

The Indians had their first chance to tie the game with 9:29 remaining on the second-half clock. Veronica Schratz lined up for a penalty shot but was turned away by Baratka. Pine-Richland celebrated the save a little too early.

“I was a little concerned after she missed that (penalty shot),” Casciola said. “She usually owns those goals. She’s usually 100 percent, and that’s when I was a little bit nervous.”

The Rams had one more push and quality scoring opportunity with 7:24 remaining when a loose ball slipped through the Indians defense but bounced over the stick of a Rams attacker, who was standing in front of the goal, and out of play.

Things started to go down hill when the Rams turned the ball over near the center line. The Indians came back with a quick push deep into the Rams’ end where Schratz found a wide open Adrianna Cocco, who scored the game-tying goal from about 15 yards out to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:21 on the clock.

“That was a shift change too,” said Casciola, recalling the game-tying goal. “I put somebody in that spot that normally isn’t in that spot, and she scored. She almost scored a second time so I just kept her there.”

The score ignited a Peters Township team that needed a spark. The Indians nearly scored another goal with 3 minutes remaining, but it as waved off by officials.

“I knew with the momentum and if we could get it down there and score, we could get back into the game,” Casciola said. “I knew that if we made it to overtime, we’d win. I just have that much confidence in my girls.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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