North Xtra: Fox Chapel, Shady Side Academy take field hockey crowns
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In a first, field hockey royalty is shared by two schools 1.2 miles apart -- even closer as the crow flies -- in the north suburbs, not far from Route 28.
Fox Chapel Area High School is a newcomer to hoisting championship trophies. Last Wednesday's 1-0 overtime victory against Penn-Trafford sealed the first field hockey title in school history.
Shady Side Academy has become more adept at raising hardware. The Indians' 2-1 overtime victory against Sewickley Academy in the Class AA championship game represented the 12th time the school has been the WPIAL's best in field hockey's small-schools division.
Shady Side still had the state playoffs to contend with this week. The Indians lost to District 5 champion Forbes Road, 2-1 in overtime, in a first-round game Tuesday night at Penn State. Forbes Road advances to play the winner of another first-round game between District 3 runner-up Greenwood and District 4 runner-up Line Mountain on Saturday.
Fox Chapel, on the other hand, found its PIAA journey to be a short one. Less than 20 hours after beating Penn-Trafford under abysmal conditions at North Allegheny High's Newman Stadium on Oct. 31, the Foxes boarded a bus for State College, where they lost a PIAA preliminary-round game on Thursday to District 6 champion State College, 5-0.
"We didn't really have a chance to celebrate our WPIAL championship," said Fox Chapel coach Jen McCrady. "But we did talk about it after the loss to State College. We won our section title, we won the WPIAL championship and we did play in the PIAA tournament.
"It might have been a play-in game, but it still had the same feeling of playing in the state tournament."
Shady Side's state tournament experience began and ended on Tuesday. To get there, the Indians endured some anxious moments in their squeaker win against Sewickley, a team they had beaten by scores of 6-1 and 4-1 in the regular season.
"The last time we'd seen them was at the end of September, and they'd improved so much," Shady Side coach Erin Weir said. "I was impressed with their game, and they really made us work."
Sewickley came close to pulling off a huge upset. With 11:22 left in the second half and the score tied at 1-1, the Panthers' Alexis Bosilovic was awarded a penalty shot.
Similar to a penalty shot in soccer, Bosilovic was 7 yards from Shady Side goalie Gabby Harchelroad. Bosilovic's shot was stopped by Harchelroad, and the score remained tied until Sydney Mordoh's blast from 12 yards out ended the contest with 9:19 left in the first overtime.
"You could see that Gabby was fired up before the penalty stroke," Weir said. "After she stopped that shot, that gave us some momentum. That would have been a game-changer if they would have scored."
Fox Chapel's overtime victory had some drama, too, with the biggest moment taking place in overtime when senior forward Sammi Pitz pounced on a loose ball in front of the Penn-Trafford cage and drove it past Warriors goalie Harry Miller for the game's only score.
"The ball just seemed to sit there for an eternity before Sammi scored," McCrady said. "There was no scramble going on. The ball was just sitting there before Sammi got it."
Both teams will have plenty of players returning next season. Fox Chapel graduates five players from its roster, and Shady Side will part with four players once its season ends.
If it works out, both teams will meet early in the 2013 season in a non-section game.
Shady Side won this year's game, 1-0. The Indians campus is located in Fox Chapel off Fox Chapel Road. Fox Chapel High is located along Field Club road in O'Hara Township.
"We try to play each other when we can," Weir said. "The girls know each other, and it's a good rivalry even though we're not in the same section.
"There's not a lot of travel involved, and they are such a strong team, so it is good competition for us."