Field Hockey: 2016 East Season Recap

Written by Joe Koch on .

Before the 2016 WPIAL field hockey season began, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding three of the teams that had spent their entire history playing in what had been in previous years the Class 3A classification.

But before any player or team had picked up the sticks and formulated a game plan, the PIAA came up with a plan to reconfigure the sport from two classifications to three.

In some of the 12 districts that make up athletics in the state, the decision meant some districts would afford more schools to compete in postseason competition.

But for the WPIAL, only three teams would be eligible to move into the newly configured 2A, while the larger schools would be in 3A, while the seven WPIAL schools that in previous years had been AA would now be known as 1A schools.

Penn-Trafford would be one of the three schools that would be straddling the fence between 3A and 2A along with Oakland Catholic and Woodland Hills.

Initially, Warriors coach Cindy Dutt had plenty of misgivings about the state of the sport and her team's role in it.

"Would we be placed in with the schools that used to be AA?," Dutt wondered, as the Warriors had enjoyed a healthy rivalry against all of the schools in 3A, Section 1.

The decision she received -- along with Woodland Hills and Oakland Catholic -- eased her fears. The Warriors would continue to play the familiar rivals it had competed against for years in the regular season. The same would be true for Oakland Catholic's Eagles and Woodland Hills' Wolverines, longtime members of Section 2.

All three schools knew the postseason was a possibility, but the configuration in a three-team tournament would be determined by how well each team fared during regular-season section play.

Penn-Trafford emerged as the top 2A team entering the postseason as the Warriors finished in fourth place with a section record of 5-5. The Warriors had the same record as Norwin, and the two teams split their regular-season games. Norwin won the first game, 3-0, and Penn-Trafford won the rematch, 1-0. But the Knights were awarded third place as they had an aggregate score of 3-1 in the two games played.

Still, Penn-Trafford fared better in regular-season play than either Oakland Catholic -- which finished fifth -- and Woodland Hills -- which finished seventh -- in Section 2.

And, just to solidify the Warriors' playoff position, Penn-Trafford played both Oakland Catholic and Woodland Hills in the first two weeks of the regular season in non-section game, and the Warriors beat the Eagles, 8-0, and the Wolverines, 10-0.

That meant the Warriors received a bye into the championship game, awaiting the winner of the semifinal between Woodland Hills and Oakland Catholic.

That, however, was a game that was never played as it was determined that Woodland Hills had at least one male player on its team. That made the Wolverines ineligible for the postseason.

With the finalists now determined, Penn-Trafford got off to a quick start and cruised to its first-ever WPIAL 2A championship with a 6-1 victory over Oakland Catholic.

"It feels great," said Dutt after the victory over the Eagles. "They worked hard for it. I think we have more energy now than we did before the game."

Senior Bri Lander got the scoring started, finding the back of the goal three minutes into the game. The Warriors' offensive star was junior Alayna Wagner, who registered a hat trick.

Dutt said the 3A schedule the Warriors played during the regular season helped immeasurably.

"The experience we received during the season made us more prepared for this game," she said.

That victory placed the Warriors in a play-in game against District 4 champion Selinsgrove. Unfortunately, the Seals raced to a fast start and ended Penn-Trafford's season with an 8-0 shutout.

What's in store for the three 2A schools now playing WPIAL field hockey? That's something that can't be answered right now. But it's a likely bet that the WPIAL would like to see more than three schools competing for the postseason in the middle division.

Ellis wins third WPIAL title in a row, seventh overall: Ever since the WPIAL began sponsoring championships in field hockey in 1994, Shady Side Academy has been the sport's most dominant team regardless of the name being attached to the smaller-school division.

Following the 2013 championship which the Indians won, Shady Side Academy had won 13 WPIAL titles in what had been called Class AA.

Three years later, the Indians' championship total remains at 13, even after the PIAA has reclassified the smallest of what is now three classifications to 1A.

The team that has put a halt to the Indians' victory parade has been The Ellis School. The Tigers now have amassed three titles in a row and their seventh overall with a 3-1 victory over the Indians in the WPIAL 1A championship game on Nov. 1 at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.

The game's score was a fitting one as the two teams split during the regular season. Shady Side won the first game, 2-1, and Ellis took the rematch, 3-2.The two teams finished the year with identical section records of 10-1-1, and the number of goals each scored against the other was a matching total of 4-4. It doesn't get much closer than that, but Shady Side received the top seed in the tournament with Ellis the No. 2 seed.

Ellis reached the championship round with a 3-0 victory over neighborhood rival Winchester Thurston in the semifinal. Ellis advanced to the first round of the PIAA tournament, where the Tigers fell to District 6 champion Belleville Mennonite, 2-1, in a first-round game played at Bald Eagle Area High School on Nov. 8.

The cupboard certainly isn't bare for the Tigers. There will be seven starters returning from the team that defeated Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL championship game.