By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
KINGSTON – With one flick of a penalty stroke into the upper left corner of the cage, Jill Kringe erased years of frustration for the Hazleton Area field hockey program.
Kringe’s goal with 5:24 left Nov. 2 lifted Hazleton Area to a 2-1 victory over Honesdale in the District 2 Class 3A championship game and into the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.
The district title and state appearance are each firsts for a team that has spent years coming close.
“Six times to the championship game, five silvers and we finally got the gold,” Hazleton Area coach Mary Kelly said. “Our seniors have three silver medals, so they were pretty determined to make it gold tonight.”
And, when Hazleton Area earned a penalty stroke on a goal-saving Honesdale infraction behind its goalie, Kelly knew the senior to which she should turn.
Kringe was already having a strong game on defense against the team that ruined Hazleton Area’s title hopes at home last season. And, she has a history of converting penalty strokes, including a game-winner against Delaware Valley earlier this season.
“Jill just knows where to put that ball,” Kelly said. “She doesn’t crumble under the pressure of that situation. On a night like tonight, she really stood tall the entire game.”
Kringe, who is committed to play on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II level at Millersville University, said she is confident in her own skills in that situation and that the shooter has “the advantage over the goalie” in a penalty stroke. She delivered the winner, then went back to protecting the lead on defense as Hazleton Area closed out the championship.
“Making history just in general is a very big deal,” Kringe said. “Past championship games and getting silver all those times, it was very frustrating. We came so far and the ending we really wanted came true.
“It’s all very wild.”
Defenses dominated for three quarters, including a key third-quarter defensive save by Hazleton Area’s Molly Znachko.
The Lady Cougars moved on top with no time left in the third quarter.
Megan Kernis scored on a rebound during the completion of a penalty corner. The Lady Hornets had one less defender available on the play after having one sent to midfield for coming out early in defense of the original start of the corner.
Honesdale tied the game midway through the fourth quarter on a reverse chip by Claire Campen, off a Jillian Hoey assist, but 1:01 later Hazleton Area was back on top and headed for its first title.
Both teams finished with eight shots. Honesdale had a 9-5 lead in penalty corners.
Elaina Ashman made four saves for Hazleton Area while Nicole Miszler had three for Honesdale.
Hazleton Area had also lost to Honesdale during the season, 1-0, on the road during a 6-5 start. Since then, the Lady Cougars are 7-2 with just seven goals allowed.