By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
Sometimes the statistics clearly suggest a winner.
Then you look at the scoreboard, and you do a double-take.
That describes the situation in the Catholic League field hockey championship Sunday afternoon at Arcadia University. Despite a decided disadvantage in penalty corners, time in the offensive zone and scoring chances, Kennedy-Kenrick emerged with its first title since 1997 thanks to a thrilling, 2-1, overtime victory over a flabbergasted Archbishop Prendergast.
“It’s still surreal,” said senior Melissa Hood. “A part of me still can’t believe what we have done.”
Hood and her teammates admit that they were on a short list of people who believed they could pull off such an incredible feat. Three-time defending champion Archbishop Carroll seemed like a lock to reach the finals after going undefeated in league play, including a 4-1 win over Kennedy-Kenrick on Oct. 8.
Whether it was a case of overconfidence or Kennedy-Kenrick choosing the best time of the year to play their best field hockey, they defeated Carroll, 1-0, in the semifinals. Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, favored O’Hara was stunned by Prendergast, 2-1, to set up an unlikely final. Kennedy-Kenrick then upended a Prendergast team that had defeated them, 3-1, on Sept. 17.
If there was a playoff Most Valuable Player, there could have been a fun – if not heated – debate. Serious consideration could have been given to Hood, who scored the only goal in the Carroll game and provided the first score in the championship. Hood described both goals as “team goals” because scrambles in front of the net pressured the opponents’ defense and goalie.
The MVP also could have been Katie Shields. Normally a defenseman, Shields played front line in overtime and supplied the winning goal in sudden-death off a long feed from teammate Bridgette Mooney that finally ended the high energy, nail-biting event. Or perhaps junior goalie Jess Burns, who survived numerous Prendergast flurries to preserve a 1-1 tie that came courtesy of a late, first-half goal by Prendie sophomore Brooke Stretch.
Finally, it could have been the K-K defense led by Shields, senior Lauren McCabe and senior Lauren Cole. It was Cole who in overtime seemed to come out of nowhere to stop a Prendergast breakaway by flicking the ball away before Burns could be tested.
“I was a little relieved when she did that,” laughed Burns. “I appreciated it a lot. Overtime is really nerve wracking.”
A product of Visitation BVM in Norristown, Hood mentioned how special it was to share the moment with K-K coach Andrea Carr, who had coached Hood in grade school and took over the K-K program in her freshman year.
She also specified how important it was to the Kennedy-Kenrick seniors.
“I can’t even describe it,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my whole life. All of us just jumped in the air and started screaming.”
At the other end of the field, Burns wasn’t sure what had occurred.
“I saw a lot of excitement, but I didn’t know for sure until I saw everyone race toward the other goal,” she said.
I thought to myself, ‘Oh. I guess we won.’ Then I ran up to join in the celebration.”
Since there is no Public League Class AA school, Kennedy-Kenrick automatically advances to the PIAA Class AA state tournament, which begins Nov. 4.
“I’m glad we’re still playing,” said Hood. “But right now, I don’t think any of us want to think about anything other than winning the Catholic League championship. It will take a while to sink in, but we’re not in any hurry.”