Harding said the Patriots had been working all season for a possible return trip, concentrating on refining their game and keeping their poise.
"I think we were a little surprised that we made states last year," senior back Jessica Martin said. "And we weren't used to playing on the artificial turf [at Messiah]. I think we were a little thrown off by it. This year, we've played quite a few games on artificial surfaces."
East's most recent game on an artificial surface was the semifinal win over Souderton at Wissahickon High School.
The Patriots (24-2-1) handed Emmaus (25-1) its only loss this season and have won the last four meetings between the two teams.
"I don't know who it was - it may have been a newspaper reporter - who reminded me of that [the four consecutive losses]," veteran Hornets coach Sue Butz-Stavin said.
Emmaus, which has won 13 straight District 11 titles, is making its seventh appearance in the title game. The Hornets have won the championship five times, most recently in 1997.
Central Bucks East won the state crown in 1986.
Emmaus has three players - forward/midfielder Laree Beans, forward Jill Civic and midfielder Kristina Edmonds - who have been invited to the U.S Field Hockey Association's A Camp next month in California. The U.S. under-19, under-21 and national teams will be selected from that camp.
The Hornets have just one senior on the squad - defensive starter Lindsey Geosits, a Division I basketball prospect. Beans, Civic and Edmonds are among eight junior starters. Beans has scored 31 goals and matched that with 31 assists this season. Junior Lindsay Quay is the team's leading goal-scorer with 33.
"Lindsey was the only senior to come out," said Butz-Stavin, who is in her 26th season as coach. "Some found other avenues."
Emmaus alternates goalies. Junior Katie Fox plays the first half. Sophomore Kristen Hodavance takes over for the second half.
Butz-Stavin said the Hornets were looking forward to the rematch.
"We've accomplished a lot this season," she said. "So has East."
East was unbeaten until it stumbled in the District 1 tournament, losing to Neshaminy in the semifinals, 2-1, then bowing to Pennsbury, 1-0, in the third-place game. In the state tournament, the Patriots have beaten Nazareth, Council Rock and Souderton.
Power-hitting senior Merri McKissock scored the game-winning goal against Souderton, but East has a balanced attack. Junior Lauren Crandall had the other goal against Souderton.
Defensively, the Patriots look to Martin, Ashley Kelly and goalie Sarah Abbud. Harding has not substituted since East opened the PIAA playoffs.
Don Beideman's e-mail address is email@example.com.