Shady Side Academy wins 15th WPIAL field hockey title

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 | 8:53 PM

There are many Western Pennsylvania fall sports traditions, not the least of which is 15 consecutive years of Ellis School or Shady Side Academy winning a WPIAL championship in field hockey.

The two teams met Tuesday in a title game for the sixth straight season. Shady Side won, 1-0, in a repeat of last year.

The game-winning goal was scored with 21 minutes, 2 seconds left in the second half by Indians junior Campbell Wolfe.

The play started as a penalty corner. Jenny Woodings passed the ball to senior Zoe Conomikes at the top of the circle, and Shady Side’s offense did what coach Betsy Gorse has preached all season — crash the net.

Conomikes advanced to the left of the net and shot across the crease where Wolfe was waiting to tap the ball in.

“It all happened so quickly, so it just felt really good to score,” Wolfe said. “We worked so hard this season, and we’re glad it all paid off.”

Shady Side freshman Thea Conomikes said it was “special” to play an important role in ending her sister’s WPIAL career with a championship. She made three saves to complete the shutout.

Ellis’ best scoring opportunities did not end with shots on goal.

Down 1-0 with 16 minutes left, Thea Conomikes challenged an Ellis rush 15 yards in front of her net. Tigers junior Hannah Rust dodged the goalie but was unable to get around two Indians defenders for a clean shot on the open net.

Ellis junior Tegan Poerio, who has 100 career goals, stickhandled through four Shady Side players and passed it to senior Alex Wood, whose shot was just wide.

“In the heat of the moment, I didn’t realize it was Tegan, and everyone knows she’s a really good player,” Thea Conomikes said. “I just knew my defense was there for me again, and I tried to be in position if the ball was on goal.”

Tigers junior Genna Barge, a Division I commit to Davidson College, saved seven shots to keep the game close.

“Genna’s game was impeccable, and she did all I asked,” Ellis coach Amanda Rose said. “I wanted her to keep it simple, and she did. (Shady Side’s) goal was nice. It was really nice.”

Rose said her team’s inexperience — she started four freshmen and was without senior Aira Bazaz — showed at times with “hesitation.”

“I think we just have to build on our experience,” Rose said. “It’s a different game when you’re playing for the championship. It’s different than the regular season, because we’re under the lights with a million fans. The pressure is different, and I asked them to play with heart, and they left it all on the field.”

Shady Side will advance to the PIAA playoffs.

“We’ve had a lot of illness and had seven players out on Thursday and Friday,” Gorse said. “Yesterday was our first day with everyone back, and we shook the rust off. Going forward, we have to work hard and focus on the basic fundamentals.”

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