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Moravian eliminates Lehighton in OT

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    Lehighton’s Karissa Hough gets ready to push the ball past Cassie Romanczuk of Moravian Academy. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published October 29. 2019 12:22PM

EMMAUS — Lehighton and Moravian Academy have played each other in some big contests over the past few seasons.

But few of those games have been as dramatic as Monday’s meeting in the District 11 semifinals where a goal with 30 seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime before Moravian Academy scored quickly to earn a 2-1 win over the Indians.

The matchup played out just as was expected, with both teams grabbing momentum back from each other at key points in the game.

Early on, Moravian Academy had the momentum and midway through the first half, Nikki Chiaradia found the back of the cage with a shot from close range, to give the Lions a 1-0 edge that would carry into halftime.

The teams again raced up and down the field in the second half, with neither able to truly gain an advantage. Just past the midway point of the half, Lehighton coach Vanessa Rimbey called a timeout, hoping to give her team something to rally around. The move worked, and the Indians came out playing a tougher brand of hockey and forcing penalties on Moravian Academy.

“I called a timeout with 13-minutes left, and I felt like that was the spark they needed, so maybe I should have called that timeout sooner to get them motivated and regroup,” said Rimbey.

Lehighton forced one corner after another late in the half, having six corner opportunities in a row, but wasn’t able to get the ball past Moravian Academy goalkeeper April Gregory. What the corners did do was wear down the Moravian Academy players, and after the final corner opportunity was seemingly cleared, Lehighton’s Adriana Hinkle struck for a goal with just :31 showing on the clock.

“They [the corners] definitely would have been useful in the first half or earlier than the final five-minutes of the game, but they got it done and they never gave up,” said Rimbey of her team’s play.

Moravian Academy looked to end things in regulation and were awarded a penalty corner just prior to time running out.

The Lions were allowed to play the corner, but were turned away and regulation came to an end.

In overtime, Moravian Academy came out charging, as just one minute into play the Lions put a shot just wide of the cage. Another minute later, they found the mark when Cassie Romanczuk scored the game-winner to end Lehighton’s season.

“I’m very proud of them,” said Rimbey of her team’s heroics. “Even though we didn’t win, we didn’t give up, especially with 30 seconds left, who expected that? They did great, and they fought the whole season.”

Lehighton loses eight seniors from this year’s team — all of whom have been important to the team’s play, helping lead the team to a district championship last season and then into the quarterfinals of states.

“They’re a great group,” said Rimbey. “We lose eight seniors, so I don’t know what next year is going to hold. They’re a strong group to live up to. We’re losing some great girls, and the underclassmen have some stepping up to do.”

LOOKING BACK ... Lehighton and Moravian Academy met in the 2017 finals with the Lions winning 2-1 in overtime. The year before that, Moravian Academy downed Lehighton 8-0 in the finals. The two teams have both been in the District 11 playoffs for five straight seasons. This is the first time since 2015 that the Indians will not play in the PIAA tournament. They reached the state quarterfinals in two of the last three seasons.

“Moravian Academy has a strong history in field hockey as we do,” Rimbey said. “This year, we beat them during the regular season, and now they beat us — so it goes back and forth. It’s a great rivalry, but unfortunately, it didn’t go our way this year.”

LOOKING AHEAD ... Lehighton has some quality underclassmen who will be leaned upon to replace the departing seniors. Hinkle — who showed poise throughout the game and scored the late goal to send the contest to overtime — is only a sophomore. In addition to the seniors, the roster has eight juniors who will take over leadership of the team in 2020.

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