NEPA Sports Nation

Pizano strokes send WA to final

Bianca Pizano

By Tom Robinson,

WHITEHALL – Call it the storm before the quiet.

When many teams might have been content to kill the clock and escape into overtime, Wyoming Area, led by the play of Alyvia Yatsko and Lyla Rehill, raced up the field in a frantic final 15 seconds.

That surge set off a sequence of events that led to Bianca Pizano standing quietly at the penalty stroke line waiting for an official’s whistle so she could take a shot with no time remaining on the clock and her Lady Warriors tied with Oley Valley.

Pizano flicked the stroke into the net for the second time in the game, launching Wyoming Area on its first trip to a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association field hockey state championship game with a 3-2 victory over Oley Valley in a Class A semifinal.

“Finally,” said Pizano, whose team had been shut out by Oley Valley in two of the previous three semifinals.

Wyoming Area will play unbeaten District 3 champion Boiling Springs, a 1-0 overtime winner over Central Columbia, Saturday in the 11 a.m. state final at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

“It’s insane,” said Pizano, a Michigan State commit. “We’ve never done it before. This has been our goal since the beginning.

“Finally, we get to go to the final. Now, we just have to go and get the job done.”

Alyvia Yatsko

Rehill, Yatsko and others set up Pizano to get the job done with the clock stood still between the end of regulation and the potential start of 7-on-7 overtime play that would have been the case if she did not score.

In a game otherwise frequently controlled by Wyoming Area – the Lady Warriors led 9-6 in shots, 8-2 in penalty corners and 2-0 in penalty strokes taken – Oley Valley had applied pressure, keeping the ball on its offensive end for much of the game’s final three minutes.

When Wyoming Area earned a free 16-yard hit to get out of its defensive end, Yatsko, a junior defender saw an opportunity to not just escape trouble, but to turn the game around.

“I was hoping we could still get it down there again, get a corner out of it and make something happen,” first-year Wyoming Area coach Bree Bednarski said. “I was just so happy to see that happen.”

Yatsko was not looking forward to an extended game.

“I didn’t want it to go into overtime,” she said. “I saw a perfect gap to Lyla so I just shot it up as hard as I could. She just worked her magic, got a corner and we luckily got a stroke.”

Rehill, a sophomore who leads the team in scoring, dribbled the ball about 60 yards. She worked to the left sideline, then angled into the circle where she drew a foul on a defender about a second before time ran out.

“She’s a great player,” Bednarski said. “She’s got a lot of stick skills.

“We depend on her a lot.”

Rules dictate that Wyoming Area got to play out its penalty corner even without time on the clock.

The Lady Warriors pulled all their players up near the circle, with no fear of giving up a goal.

When the ball was inserted Pizano took one shot that goalie Cenora Grim stopped before facing the Lady Warriors coming after the rebound.

Rehill, Ella McKernan and Juliana Gonzales all got near the ball at the right post and a scramble ensued until Grim illegally trapped the ball under her body, leading to the penalty stroke call.

Pizano took it from there, making her second penalty stroke of the game, third of the last two rounds of the state tournament and fourth in five attempts this season.

“We have a lot of trust and belief in Bianca,” said Bednarski, who decision on who would take the most important shot in the program’s history was instantaneous.

Similary, Pizano got the ball when a penalty stroke was awarded 3:13 into the game.

Lauren Habacus tied the game for Oley Valley later in the quarter.

Alexys Moore put Wyoming Area back in front on an assist from Nina Angeli on a penalty corner with 3:04 left in the quarter.

Taylor Vaccaro tied it on an Oley Valley penalty corner 5:17 into the second quarter, then neither team scored for 39:43 until Pizano decided the outcome.

Follow us on social media