Shady Side Academy field hockey caps season with improbable run to PIAA semifinals

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Saturday, November 21, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The Shady Side Academy field hockey team has made its fair share of PIAA playoff appearances since winning its first WPIAL title in 1993.

But SSA could never find its way out of the quarterfinals and into the semifinals.

Actually, not many WPIAL teams have been able to do so in the past 30 years. But on Nov. 14, Shady Side punched its ticket to the PIAA Class A semifinals for the first time in school history, and coach Betsy Gorse couldn’t have been prouder of what her team was able to accomplish.

“That’s a very nice accomplishment there; it’s a monkey-off-your-back type of feeling,” Gorse said. “It’s awesome. People might say it was a shortened PIAA tournament, but when you shortened the tournament to go to the second round, you’re still playing all the district champions. But for us to get through, it feels good.”

In the quarterfinals, Shady Side took down District 5 champion Forbes Road, 4-1, to advance to the semifinals. On Nov. 18, Shady Side ran into District 3 champion Greenwood and lost 3-1 in a competitive semifinal game.

Shady Side’s Jenny Woodings scored the lone goal with about two minutes left in the game. Gorse said her team never gave up and the players stayed in it until the end.

“The kids were playing up until that final whistle, and we never gave up, even when it was 2-0 at half,” Gorse said. “We said to ourselves its 0-0 now, we have a whole half to play and we’re going to go after it again. But Greenwood is a very good team, so you learn a lot from that as well.”

Although it came up short of earning a trip to the PIAA title game, Shady Side put together another special season. With an overall record of 12-2, the squad won a third straight WPIAL title, the 17th in school history, and also placed four players on the All-WPIAL Class A team, as well as two honorable mentions.

Senior Annabel Kuhn was the lone senior from Shady Side to be named to the team, but sophomore goalkeeper Thea Conomikes and juniors Marnie McCormick and Cecelia Messner were also selected. Senior defender Cealy Fryncko and Woodings received honorable mention honors.

Even with an offseason of unknowns because of covid-19 and a shortened preseason, Shady Side came into this season with high expectations that it would have a shot to go even further than a year ago. Gorse said taking District 3 third-place finisher Boiling Springs, which had a record of 18-3-1 last season, into overtime and only losing 1-0 gave the team confidence heading into this season.

“Considering we had only two weeks of preseason and everything that we accomplished in such a short time it’s really amazing,” Gorse said. “I’m just really proud of this team for what they’ve done in a really short time.”

Shady Side is already looking forward to next year. Gorse said she’s compiled a list of what they can work on and how they can improve.

“We’re losing key players from the senior class, but we have some players who are more than capable of stepping up,” Gorse said. “These girls have been biding their time, and now it’s sort of like the next man up, when it’s your time to go in, you go in and we have a lot of girls who are right on the cusp.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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