The 2016 field hockey season was one that brought about a season of accomplishment for the team from Fox Chapel High School.
Heavily favored to repeat after winning the 2015 Class 3A championship, the Foxes faced plenty of challenges as they prepared for the 2016 season.
But face those challenges they did, and they did so with a tremendous amount of gusto.
That started with the competition they faced in Section 2. That's where Fox Chapel once again swept their way against six section competitors with a 12-0 record. Not only did they win all of their section games, the Foxes nearly did so with a perfect slate as they outscored their section opponents by a 99-2 margin.
But the season wasn't a perfect one for Fox Chapel. Coach Jen McCrady's team ventured out of section play on several occasions.
One such memorable occasion took place on a Saturday, Sept. 10, where they traveled to Pine-Richland and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Rams, who eventually ended up winning the Section 1 title.
A month later, on Oct. 10, the Foxes visited North Allegheny's Newman Stadium for a game with the Tigers. In previous years, the game between the two teams has been a close one, and this game was no exception as the Foxes earned a 3-1 victory over the Tigers. Both McCrady and Tigers' coach Madelyn Berkley always have pointed to this game as a solid test for both of their teams. It usually is followed by a playoff game, and that was the case again this season.
Fox Chapel found plenty of competition in its own section schedule, particularly when it came to the Peters Township Indians.
Led by the Schratz sisters -- Sammi, Veronica and Greta -- the Indians almost were as perfect as the Foxes in section play. Peters Township came up short in just two section games with losses to Fox Chapel by margins of 2-1 and 3-1.
The Indians nearly were perfect against all other Section 2 rivals, outscoring the other five teams in the section by a margin of 68-3.
Teams playing that well usually advance to the four-team WPIAL tournament, and that was the case for both Fox Chapel and Peters Township.
But that's where things diverged for the two teams. While Fox Chapel blanked visiting North Allegheny, 3-0, in one semifinal, Peters Township fell to host Pine-Richland, 3-1, in the other game.
The Foxes' victory landed them in the WPIAL 3A championship game where they held off a late Pine-Richland charge to earn their second consecutive WPIAL title and fourth with a 3-1 victory over the Rams.
McCrady had high praise for the Rams.
"Their defense was definitely phenomenal," said McCrady, who noted that the Foxes had 15 penalty corners while the Rams had four. "Their goalie [Kierstin Coup] was making some great saves, and their defense was right behind her making sure nothing trickled through."
Foremost in that defense was senior defensive midfielder Chalinda Schleicher, who turned aside at least four Fox Chapel shots that got past Coup.
"They kept the ball off the line," McCrady added. "We definitely had our chances as we put three [goals] in. We can't complain about that."
Fox Chapel now has won three 3A titles. The first came in 2012. The other title was a AA title (now 1A) captured in 1997.
Good things have a way of coming to an end, and that was the case for Fox Chapel as the Foxes lost a first-round PIAA game to Lower Dauphin, the third-place team from District 3, by a 3-1 margin.
Lower Dauphin made it to the quarterfinals where it was eliminated by eventual state runner-up Palmyra by a 1-0 score.
Four players graduated from the 2016 team, including offensive standouts Meg McCrady and Megan Botos and defenders Megan Eisengart and Krista Spuhler.
Pine-Richland enjoys memorable season: The goal of every team is to finish the final game with a victory. Depending on the sport and the level on which it is being played, that usually means the team has won a state or national championship.
Pine-Richland's field hockey team did not win a state championship in 2016. But it would be hard to call the 2016 season a failure.
Under the leadership of coach Donna Stephenson, the Rams reached heights that only had been dreams in previous seasons.
The Rams won their first-ever 3A Section 1 championship by dethroning perennial power North Allegheny. And the Rams did it in the most convincing way by sweeping the Tigers in both regular-season meetings by scores of 3-0 and 4-3. The second game was decided in overtime.
The first victory had some historic connections as the Rams' shutout victory snapped a 53-game non-losing streak for the Tigers that stretched back to 2011. Starting with a 2-1 overtime victory over Penn-Trafford on Sept. 4, 2011, North Allegheny had a record of 51 wins, 2 ties and 0 losses. But all of that ended on Sept. 28 when the Rams got a first-half goal from Sarah Metzmaier and second-half tallies from Marina Miller and Vivian Cavanugh to wrap up the home-field victory.
Pine-Richland made it a clean sweep with the 4-3 overtime victory over North Allegheny at the Tigers' Newman Stadium eight days before the playoffs began.
The Rams raced out to a 2-0 halftime lead on goals from Alexa Sharron and Jackie Shepard.
The Tigers, though, squared things as Erin Coran, Olivia Scherrer and Angie Genter each scored while the Rams were held to just one second-half tally on Brenna Flynn's goal.
Pine-Richland, though, wasted little time in overtime as Livy DeFoggia buried a rebound with just 24 seconds elapsed to give the Rams the victory and outright possession of the team's first section title in school history.
Pine-Richland achieved some other firsts in 2016. After a 3-1 semifinal victory over Peters Township in the 3A semifinal, the Rams gave defending champion Fox Chapel all it could handle before the Foxes scored a late goal to earn a 3-1 victory in the WPIAL 3A championship game.
In previous seasons, a loss in the championship game would have meant packing up the sticks for the season. But the PIAA awarded a second berth to a WPIAL 3A team, and the Rams' season continued for one more game.
But that's as far as they got as the Rams were awarded a spot in the Eastern bracket, and they fell to District 3 runner-up Penn Manor, 5-0, in a first-round game.
Penn Manor advanced to the state semifinals where they lost to eventual champion Emmaus, 1-0.
It was an outstanding season for Pine-Richland. The Rams graduated seven players from the 2016 team, six of them starters. But with the powerhouse group of Sarah Metzmaier, Molly Rottinghaus, Livy DeFoggia, Marina Miller and Alora Sharron returning along with Sarah Mooney, prospects appear bright for Stephenson's team.
Shady Side Academy falls in gripping Class 1A final: All season long, Shady Side Academy's field hockey team put forth a solid effort that resulted in a 10-1-1 regular-season record against 1A opponents and the top seed in the WPIAL 1A field hockey tournament.
With that top billing, the Indians rolled to a 4-0 victory over Aquinas Academy in the semifinals of the WPIAL tournament. It was a satisfying victory for the Indians as Aquinas held Shady Side Academy to a 1-1 tie after the Indians had rolled to an 8-0 victory over the Crusaders in the first game between the two teams.
The championship game proved to be a different matter for Shady Side Academy, though, as the Indians faced The Ellis School, a team that had kept the Indians stationed at 13 WPIAL championships after the Tigers had won successive WPIAL titles in 2014 and 2015 by matching 1-0 scores.
There would be no shutout in the championship game in 2016, but the result would be just as bitter for Shady Side as Ellis earned a 3-1 victory for the Tigers' third WPIAL title in a row and seventh in school history.
The loss also meant the end of the season for Shady Side Academy. Both the WPIAL champion and the runner-up advanced to the PIAA 3A tournament in 2016, but only the champion in 2A and 1A were afforded the same consideration.
With that disappointment, though, comes a sense of determination for Shady Side Academy.
Seventeen players were on the Indians' roster going into the championship game against Ellis, and 13 of them return for the 2017 season. Eight of them started, and four of them have at least two years of high school experience remaining.
It promises to be a bright future for the Indians.