Shady Side Academy captures 4th straight WPIAL field hockey title

Saturday, October 30, 2021 | 8:18 PM

Betsy Gorse returned to Shady Side Academy for her second stint as head coach four seasons ago, and the move turned out in the best way for both her and the school, as the Bulldogs won their fourth consecutive WPIAL Class A championship Saturday by defeating Aquinas Academy, 1-0, at Washington & Jefferson’s Cameron Stadium.

“Our girls persevered tonight; when things were going tough, they didn’t panic,” Gorse said. “They were willing to step up, keep playing and moving forward.”

Gorse was referring the first quarter when Aquinas Academy, making its first championship game appearance as opposed to the 11th straight for Shady Side Academy, peppered the Bulldogs with nine shots on goal. Shady Side Academy junior goalkeeper Thea Conomikes was up to the challenge, including making a spectacular diving stop late in the opening quarter.

“Thea has been outstanding. Goalies a lot of times don’t get the recognition,” Gorse said. “Thea has been the backbone of our defense all season and has kept us in games many times as she did today.”

Conomikes’ work, 13 saves, could have been for naught if not for forward Neely Hawn.

The freshman found a rebound of a CeCe Messner shot 2 minutes, 40 seconds into the fourth quarter and slid it past the Crusaders’ Maryam BouSamra for the game’s only goal.

Gorse was especially happy that Hawn was here for the championship game.

“That was huge, and then she had to leave. Neely never played field hockey before this year, but she has ice hockey experience,” Gorse said. “She has been learning the game, feeling around and she has been able to sneak in behind folks and get goals.”

Gorse said Hawn had a 12:15 p.m. ice hockey game, and her grandmother brought her to the field hockey championship, and then hauled her away immediately afterward for a 5:55 p.m. ice hockey game.

BouSamra, a junior, finished with four saves for the Crusaders, including three big stops in the second quarter to keep the game scoreless.

The championship was the fourth game between the Bulldogs and the Crusaders this year, and each one ended in a one-goal victory for Shady Side Academy.

“Aquinas always steps up, and we have just an amazing competition between the two teams,” Gorse said. “They have very good players. We worked a couple of things and tried to switch it up today, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Shady Side Academy heads to the PIAA playoffs. The Bulldogs will have a 10-day layoff, which could be good and bad per Gorse.

“A little of both, we will probably give the girls Monday off and make arrangements with the teams that go on (from the WPIAL) and set something up where we can scrimmage, which would help us all,” she said.

The Bulldogs are scheduled to face the fourth-place team from District 3 in the PIAA tournament.

“I think we’re home for the start of the state playoffs,” Gorse said. “I have those brackets and I’ll be watching that tournament (District 3) to try and get ready.”

Shady Side beat Forbes Road, 4-1, in the PIAA quarterfinals before falling 3-1 to Greenwood in the semifinals last season.

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