Conestoga clinches Central title

With most of the starters getting a rest in a Central League rout, Natalie Leiser (right) leads Conestoga's cheers from the bench as the Pioneers score goal No. 11 against Penncrest.
With most of the starters getting a rest in a Central League rout, Natalie Leiser (right) leads Conestoga's cheers from the bench as the Pioneers score goal No. 11 against Penncrest. (      CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 17, 2013

Meghan Connors couldn't help but flash a huge smile.

The senior cocaptain of the Conestoga field hockey team was beaming after the Pioneers' 11-1 win at home against Penncrest on Tuesday evening.

Conestoga secured sole possession of the Central League title with the win. It was its second league title in three years and the first since Connors was a sophomore.

This time, she said, it meant a little more.

"It means everything," she said, wearing a red warm-up jacket after the game.

Connors scored two goals and had two assists to help Conestoga build a 7-0 lead before halftime. As the Pioneers continued to add goals in the second half, Connors mostly watched from the bench as other teammates scored. She opted for the jacket to stay warm as the temperature steadily dropped on a clear night at Teamer Field.

The postgame discussion was really Connors' first chance to let loose after a relatively nontheatrical ending to a title-clinching game. The Conestoga bench, seated behind the Pioneers' soft-spoken coaching staff, remained mostly quiet through much of the second half. When the final horn sounded, there was no jumping or screaming - only mild applause and a walk toward the postgame handshakes.

"We wanted to make sure we were celebrating in an appropriate way," second-year coach Meg Ryan said. "This is a huge accomplishment, but we have our sights set on other things."

Olivier Everts, a junior who scored three goals in the win, said this year's league title feels better than the one he helped the Pioneers win when he was a freshman. He thinks the team worked harder for it this year.

"We're more of a team now," Everts said. "We're playing better. I'm closer with the team. I've been playing with some of these girls for more than two years now. We know each other well, and friendships came along with it."

The Pioneers are undefeated in the Central League at 11-0 and are 14-3 overall. They hope to improve on last year's loss in the PIAA District 1 Class AAA quarterfinals. Seedings for this year's playoffs will be decided Thursday night.

Connors said a run to the state tournament would be "amazing," and her coach added that it would be the first such run in Conestoga's recent history.

"That would probably be our pinnacle, but right now, we just want to focus on districts," Ryan said.

Penncrest 0 1 – 1

Conestoga 7 4 – 11

Goals: P-Aliya Kalman; C-Lane Adams, Meghan Connors 2, Olivier Everts 3, Kieran Murphy 2, Meredith Ross 3. Saves: P-Brielle McQuiston 12; C-Rachel Maneri 3.


jcranney@philly.com

@joey_cranney

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