Shady Side Academy overcomes Ellis School to capture 14th WPIAL Class A field hockey title

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018 | 11:03 PM


Shady Side Academy field hockey coach Betsy Gorse watched video all day Tuesday.

It wasn’t game video of the Indians opponent. It was the same five-minute clip of legendary coach Herb Brooks’ locker room speech before the U.S. Olympic hockey team went out and stunned the world with an upset of the Soviet Union in the semifinals of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.

“I watched it 10 times today; in between every class I kept putting it back on my computer and kept watching it,” Gorse said. “I told the girls that we’re the best girls hockey in team in Western Pa. today, and that’s how we left it.”

Shady Side Academy hasn’t quite reached the heights of the Miracle on Ice team, but for the Indians, Ellis was their Soviet Union. Shady Side Academy lost to the Tigers in the last four WPIAL championships games but not on Tuesday night as top-seeded Shady Side Academy knocked off defending champion and No. 2 Ellis, 1-0, at Fox Chapel to earn its first WPIAL Class A field hockey championship since 2013.

“It’s been four years, since 2014, we kept coming in second, coming in second and this was the year,” Gorse said. “These guys worked hard, and from Day 1 this has been the goal.”

Shady Side Academy (8-0) moves into the PIAA Class A tournament, and will face the District 3 third-place finisher Nov. 6, with the time, place and opponent yet to be determined. The title is Shady Side’s 14th field hockey championship, breaking a tie with North Allegheny, which has 13.

“We just couldn’t put it in the net,” Ellis coach Amanda Rose said. “Honestly, we dominated the second half, but we just couldn’t score. The first half was sloppy. We’ll get them next year; that’s all I can say about it.”

Shady Side Academy came out attacking, played fast and brought heavy pressure on Ellis goalie Genna Barge early in the first half. The Indians had seven penalty corner opportunities in the first half, with four coming in the first 10 minutes. Shady Side had three penalty corners in a row and each were turned away by Barge. The Tigers’ defense didn’t flinch and turned away everything.

The Ellis offensive attack took a while to get going and didn’t make much of a push into the scoring circle until the midway point of the first half. Ellis’ first penalty corner came with 8:45 remaining in the first half, and the Tigers put a flurry of shots on Indians’ senior goalie Clara McCormick but none cracked the cage.

“It’s a mental game with us and Shady Side, and I think it’s that way with them, too,” Rose said.

Shady Side sophomore forward Annabel Kuhn broke the game open when she scored on a rebound 3:02 into the second half.

“There was a lot of energy in the circle, someone hit it in and it was a stroke (to the) back left (of the goal),” said Kuhn recalling her game winning shot. “You just got to envision it going in, and it happens.”

For Kuhn, there was too much time left to celebrate the goal.

“You can’t take that like we won, you have to keep going,” Kuhn said. “There was a lot of game left, and we kept our heads in it.”

The Tigers (6-2) had a golden opportunity to tie the game a minute later, but McCormick kicked the ball out of the shooting circle to preserve the lead.

Ellis senior forward Leah Ewers had an opportunity late with 8:45 remaining, but the ball bounced over her stick before the Indians regained possession and went on the attack.

“We said that you leave nothing on the field,” Gorse said. “We said you go out and give it your all. We were watching a lot of Herb Brooks this afternoon.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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