By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
WHITEHALL – Wyoming Area is confirmed as one of the final four teams left pursuing a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A field hockey title.
The Lady Warriors have been ranked and regarded as the second-best team their size in the state frequently this season.
But when you aspire to be No. 1, the pursuit of improvement from that level is necessary.
Wyoming Area showed off some of that progress Saturday by rolling over Christopher Dock Mennonite from Lansdale, 5-0, in a state Class A quarterfinal at the Zephyr Sports Complex.
Playing consecutive state playoff games, the Lady Warriors have produced eight goals.
The 4.0 goals per game in the state tournament is up from 2.26 on the rest of the season as a whole and 1.57 per game in the previous seven outings heading into state play.
“We made some adjustments with our personnel,” Wyoming Area coach Erin McGinley said.
The Lady Warriors did a little bit of everything in a late-season crash course.
Wyoming Area changed formations and added new penalty corner plays while McGinley pounded away at an important philosophical approach.
“We’ve been really keying on passing and moving the ball and not trying to do it ourselves,” she said.
The results have been impressive.
Following a 3-1 victory over District 4 champion Bloomsburg, Wyoming Area overpowered Dock Mennonite.
The Lady Warriors not only posted their 14th shutout, but produced a performance they have come up with periodically in recent years, holding an opponent without a shot or penalty corner.
Dock Mennonite’s limited ventures into the offensive circle ended instantly as the Pioneers were unable to possess the ball in scoring range for anything more than a few seconds at any point in the game.
Wyoming Area produced that effort despite a formational change, which positioned an additional player on the forward line in a move to boost the sometimes-struggling offense.
Bianca Pizano, who found herself as the only center midfielder, instead of splitting that role, came through with the game’s first two goals.
Both were scored on penalty corners, including one recent addition to the playbook in which Toni Minichello set her up. Minichello received a pass from the right and kept the ball moving to the left side where Pizano got off a hard shot. A defender got a stick on it, but could not stop the ball’s momentum from carrying it into the goal.
“That’s a corner that we had never tried before,” Pizano said of a play that also generated a quality scoring chance late in the first half. “It’s brand new. We just started using it this week at practice.”
Nina Angeli matched Pizano’s two goals. Minichello wound up with a goal and two assists while Alexys Moore also had two assists.
“We have more offensive players, so more attacking movement,” Pizano said. “That helps us out a lot. Now when I’m in the middle I have more options to pass it to, which are our forwards.”
Wyoming Area’s offense came up with 15 shots and 14 penalty corners.
Pizano opened the scoring 4:08 into the game on what was already the third penalty corner try for Wyoming Area.
The score remained 1-0 until 4:50 before halftime when Pizano received a Moore insert and took the shot from high on the right side, whistling it through, inside the left post.
McGinley said the team will keep aspiring to become even more efficient in converting its penalty corner opportunities.
“I’m happier with it,” she said. “We made improvements, which is huge.”
Wyoming Area broke the game open and sent it to the Mercy Rule by scoring three times in the last 8:33 of the third quarter.
The Lady Warriors had steady pressure in a flurry of activity in front of the cage when Miranda Dominick knocked the ball free to Angeli, who pulled left out of the crowd and sent a low, reverse flick past the diving goalie.
Moore dribbled the ball to the end line just to the left of the cage and sent a pass in front where Minichello one-timed it into the goal 1:26 later.
A quick transition resulted in the final goal, which just beat the clock at the end of the third quarter.
Lyla Rehill sent a pass ahead to Minichello, who moved it along to Angeli to complete the race up the field as the horn sounded. Officials ruled the goal scored in time, precisely as the quarter ended and the Lady Warriors moved directly to the fourth quarter with their 5-0 lead.
Wyoming Area advanced to the state semifinals for the second time ever and the second time in three years. It earned a rematch with Oley Valley, the team it fell to 2-0 in the 2019 semifinals, Tuesday night at 6 back at Whitehall, which is also the site of Saturday morning’s state final.