By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
KINGSTON – Emma Watchilla stood out with the hat trick.
But she had plenty of help from the playmaking of Ella Barbacci.
Sophomore Laine Cabell had a 12-save shutout in her first full-game, high-pressure assignment in front of the cage.
That effort was also bolstered by the defense in front of Cabell, particularly in keeping Wyoming Area from scoring on any of the 13 penalty corners its steady pressure produced.
There were plenty of directions to point praise after Wyoming Seminary’s 4-0 victory Wednesday in the meeting of the last two unbeatens in Wyoming Valley Conference field hockey, but perhaps even more important to the three-time defending state champions is there was no place to send criticism.
“In my mind, this was a real team effort, and that’s what we said that we needed,” Wyoming Seminary coach Karen Klassner said after the victory on the field that bears her name. “Everyone needed to play well and I can’t think of one person that didn’t.”
Watchilla finished with three goals.
The junior, playing one more after announcing her verbal commitment to play at the University of Virginia, scored twice in the first five minutes.
Barbacci, who assisted all three Watchilla goals and scored the other one, flipped a bouncing pass into the circle in transition. Watchilla got to it first and took a quick shot from the right side to open the scoring just 3:24 in.
The next footrace was a longer one covering about half the length of the field after Barbacci’s drive got the ball out of the Wyoming Seminary defensive end.
Watchilla got there again. This time, she stopped quick, controlled the ball, switched to her reverse side and chipped the shot into the goal.
“We wanted to put them under pressure and we were able to score on those opportunities fast,” Watchilla said.
The battle for the early WVC Division 1 lead, between the top two teams in the Golden Dome Abstract Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 field hockey teams, and quite possibly the top two Class A teams in the state, was in contrast to last year’s two meetings.
Wyoming Seminary’s two closest battles in an unbeaten, state championship season were both against Wyoming Area. Both times, with the WVC Division 1 title and then the District 2 Class A championship on the line, the teams were scoreless until overtime.
At 2-0 five minutes in, the Blue Knights work was not done.
The defense and Cabell, however, combined to frustrate Wyoming Area until the lead could be expanded.
Klassner had been sharing goaltending duties within games and the only previous close game, 1-0 over Crestwood, ended in the third quarter because of weather.
With the way Cabell was playing, the veteran coach decided there was no reason to make any changes in such a high-stakes game.
“Laine was so hot, we didn’t want to break that up,” Klassner said.
Barbacci added to the lead, off a Chase Taylor assist late in the third quarter, then set up Watchilla again midway through the fourth.
Watchilla took another long lead pass and angled in from the left side before taking the shot.
“We know they’re a great team, so we’ve really been practicing on getting up early; scoring drills, stuff like that,” Watchilla said. “To get up early on them felt great.”
Wyoming Area finished with advantages of 18-16 in shots and 13-3 in penalty corners.
Wyoming Seminary’s Matt Bufano posted some video highlights, including this one of Watchilla’s second goal. https://t.co/ROSvAyOD2s
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