When the clock reached zeroes and the season officially closed, it didn’t take long for Archbishop Carroll’s field hockey team to recognize that they had nothing to be remotely ashamed of.
After their 4-1 PIAA Class 2A first-round loss to Ephrata on Nov. 7, the Patriots were reminded of what they had accomplished nine days earlier at Neumann University.
For the third consecutive season and fourth in the past five, the Patriots had ensnared the Philadelphia Catholic League championship, defeating nemesis Cardinal O’Hara by a rare lopsided score of 5-1. The two juggernauts have competed against each other five straight seasons and six of the past seven. The last time O’Hara didn’t reach the final was in 2017; Carroll, meanwhile, has played in the championship seven straight seasons, corralling four plaques.
Like last year, the Patriots entered the playoffs as the number-two seed against the undefeated Lions.
“Winning as the second seed made it sweeter,” said Carroll senior forward/midfielder Sienna Golden, the PCL’s Most Valuable Player. “We came into the game being viewed as the underdog. But in our heads, we weren’t. I think part of the reason we played so well was because we had confidence in knowing we were a better team with more confidence.”
Carroll freshman forward Morgan Wood ignited the Patriots’ offense with three goals. Unofficially recognized as the first player to ever register a hat trick in a PCL championship, the humble Wood forwarded the plaudits.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to even be able to score one goal,” said Wood, who finished with 20 goals and 11 assists. “I am also in shock because O’Hara is a great team. Our upperclassmen all know so much and teach me everything I have to know.”
Among Carroll’s upperclassmen is Morgan’s sister, Sarah. A senior defender, Wood elatedly watched her younger sibling dominate the season’s marquee event.
“Going into this year I was so excited to have my little sister on the team just like I was once the little sister for my older sister at Carroll,” said Wood, referring to 2022 Carroll grad Shannon Wood, now playing lacrosse at Shippensburg. “When Morgan scored the first goal, I was so excited because I knew it probably made her feel so much better since she was so nervous going into this game playing in the PCL championship as a freshman. Everyone running up to her and giving her hugs after each of her goals almost made me tear up. I was so proud.”
Now that the season is over, the alumna of St. Thomas the Apostle in Glen Mills grade school said she will “miss Sarah a ton . . . I will miss my bus rides back with her, and I will miss all the seniors.”
Now with three field hockey titles, Sarah Wood tried to choose the most memorable.
“I would say this year’s championship is the most special to me because all I wanted for my senior year was to win against O’Hara in the chip,” Wood said. “But the most memorable for me was probably my sophomore year since it was so exciting being a sophomore and starting, and the game going into overtime, and my first experience with that feeling you get when you do win.”
Unlike in the two previous finals (1-0 in 2022; 2-1 in double overtime in 2021), Carroll’s defense avoided game-long anxiety.
As the Patriots’ lead began to swell in the second quarter – a pair of goals by Morgan Wood in the first 2 minutes, 15 seconds, followed by a Golden goal nine minutes later – the defensive quad of Wood, senior first-team All-Catholic Beth Wineburg, senior Julia Craskey, and sophomore third-teamer Emma Grant muffled all but one O’Hara attempt on offense.
Carroll continued the onslaught 32 seconds into the third quarter on Wood’s hat trick tally and yet another goal off the stick of senior Laura Wineburg, Beth’s twin sister.
“We all just tried to keep them off of (freshman goalie Fiona Conboy) as best we could,” Sarah Wood said. “I think the communication between our defense is a very important factor that helps get the ball back out of our circle.”
For the aforementioned Golden, seizing a third title while being named Most Valuable Player punctuated an astounding resume. Having fittingly scored the Patriots’ final goal of the season – her 40th – in the loss to Ephrata, Golden finished her brilliant career as Carroll’s all-time leading scorer with 125 goals and 52 assists.
After trying to help Carroll win a third straight state title this coming spring, Golden will excitedly anticipate playing field hockey and majoring in business at Ohio State University. That happens to be the same place her mother – Deanna Golden, nee Menichini, Carroll’s coach this past season – performed after a sterling career at Carroll, highlighted by scoring the only goal in Carroll’s 1-0 PCL championship win in 1995.
“I grew up going to the campus and the school every summer,” said Golden, a graduate of SS. Colman-John Neumann in Bryn Mawr. “Growing up there, I knew it was where I wanted to be when I grew up, too. And I wanted to follow my mom’s path.”
Golden reflected on the final moments of the Ephrata loss.
“Now that my high school career is over, I am not as much sad it’s over but more happy it happened,” Golden said. “It was a great experience and has helped me majorly in preparing for the next level. I am just so grateful to have been a part of such a supportive program. I credit my success to my teammates and coaches who helped me continue to grow on and off the field skill wise and confidence wise.”
With players like Morgan Wood returning next year, Golden expects Carroll’s championship streak to grow.
“She is one of the biggest contributors on our team,” Golden said. “She is very fast, feisty, and resilient on the field. She was definitely one of our biggest finishers on the team.”
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