It didn't take long for Hershey, the fourth-place team from District 3, to assert its dominance in a PIAA Class 2A first-round game this past Tuesday against Hampton at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.
Racing to an early 4-0 lead, the Trojans never looked back in securing a 14-5 victory over the Talbots, thus ending the season for a 20-2 team that earned its first-ever WPIAL girls lacrosse championship.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, especially at this level" said Hampton coach Kelsey Viets. "I told my team that every year we get to a new level, it's a learning experience. Sometimes, it's for the worse. Sometimes, it's for the better. This [loss to Hershey] was a tough lesson to learn. We showed up kind of off-kilter which is unusual for us. We were intimidated by that [Eastern Pennsylvania] lacrosse, and it got to hurt. Unfortunately, it becomes a mental game very quickly."
Facing that early deficit did the Talbots no favors, Viets said.
"It's hard when that happens because that put more pressure on our attack," she said. "[The players] start thinking about the clock and how much time they have left and how many goals they're down, and you never want to be in that position."
Senior defender Bree Murray snapped Hershey's early run with an inside feed from another senior, Caroline Larkin, to get the Talbots on the board with 11:29 in the first half. And, the Talbots cut the Trojans' lead in half when Larkin scored the first of her team-high three goals on an unassisted foray less than a minute later with 10:53 left in the half.
But that's as close as the Talbots would get as Hershey closed out the half with a 5-1 run to take a 9-3 lead and put the game out of reach.
"Hershey was able to capitalize on that mental loss on our end," she said.
The Trojans will see a familiar rival at 4 p.m. Saturday when they take on District 3 champion Susquehannock at Cumberland Valley High School.
Hershey coach Ken Taylor liked the balanced approach that saw three of his players -- freshman midfielder Madeline Zimmer, sophomore midfielder Elaina Joyner and reserve midfielder Kailey Obenstine -- score three goals each.
"We've been pretty balanced all year," Taylor said. "We had 11 or 12 girls scoring in double digits this season, so we like to spread the ball around."
Taylor said his team's quick start relaxed his team.
"It gave us a chance to take a breath," he said. "All of the teams [in the PIAA tournament] are good, and we had no scouting on [Hampton]," he said. "So, that [quick start] gave us a moment to pause."
He was pleased with Obenstine's effort off the bench.
"We have a four-girl midfield rotation," Taylor said. "Even though she's not a starter, she gets a lot of [playing] time."
Taylor said playing in District 3 helped his team.
"We play in the Mid-Penn Conference, and we look to play [Class 3A teams] as much as we can in out-of-conference games," he said. "We play a lot of big schools out of conference."