It's league-title time for field hockey teams

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 18, 2013

Hanging in the locker room of the Conestoga field hockey team is a reminder of how far the Pioneers have come and what more they want to accomplish.

It's a sign created by the players and doodled on with multicolored markers. The sign is marked by a number of goals set by the players for this season - most notably winning the Central League, which Conestoga accomplished Tuesday night in an 11-1 win over Penncrest.

At the bottom of the sign, all the players wrote their names.

"It feels so great to check it off and finish on a high note," senior cocaptain Meghan Connors said after the win. "We see it before every game and every practice. So seeing that every day and then being able to check it off is the best feeling."

Another goal is scribbled on the poster, and the Pioneers, along with a number of other teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania, will take the next step toward achieving it beginning next week.

The PIAA District 1 Class AAA and AA playoffs are scheduled to begin Monday and Tuesday, respectively. For area teams, such as Conestoga, that hope to make a run to the state-championship tournaments, next week represents the biggest of hurdles.

"To make it to the state tournament, to make it to district finals, anything like that would be amazing," Connors said. Neither she nor her coach, Meg Ryan, could remember the last time the Pioneers reached the state tournament. Conestoga lost in the District 1 quarterfinals last year.

Seeding for the District 1 playoffs will be at 7 Thursday night at Upper Dublin after all of the District 1 league titles have been decided.

Conestoga, West Chester Henderson (Ches-Mont National), Unionville (Ches-Mont American), and Central Bucks South (Suburban One Continental) have clinched league titles. The Suburban One National could have been decided Wednesday night. Other league championships will be determined by games Thursday.

Upper Perkiomen (12-1 in conference) and Owen J. Roberts (11-1) will play for the Pioneer Athletic Conference title at 7 p.m. Thursday. Last year, Upper Perkiomen was the second seed out of District 1 in the PIAA Class AA state tournament.

In the Suburban One American, Plymouth Whitemarsh (12-0 conference) will host Wissahickon (11-1) at 3:30 p.m. Like Owen J. Roberts, Plymouth Whitemarsh will be trying to knock off last year's league powerhouse; Wissahickon advanced to the second round of the PIAA Class AAA championship as the fourth seed from District 1.

In the Catholic Academies, Gwynedd Mercy, with one league loss, has clinched at least a share of the league title. With a win against Merion Mercy on Thursday, Gwynedd would win the league outright over Villa Maria, which has two league losses. A Gwynedd loss Thursday would leave the Monarchs and Villa Maria sharing the title.

For Gwynedd Mercy, a title would represent a change in power in the Catholic Academies. The Monarchs beat perennial league powerhouse and back-to-back state runner-up Villa Maria twice this season. Since the Monarchs have the better head-to-head record, Gwynedd Mercy is guaranteed to have a higher seed than Villa Maria in the district's AA playoffs.

District 1 playoff seeding is based on league records, overall records, and strength of schedule. A maximum of 28 teams will receive bids in the Class AAA tournament and a maximum of 12 will get bids in Class AA.

The top four seeds from each class will receive byes. The Class AA tournament will send three teams to the state tournament, and the AAA tournament will send six.


jcranney@philly.com

@joey_cranney

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