The season is over for the New Hope-Solebury field hockey team.
But the Lions had quite a ride.
New Hope fell, 3-1, to Oley Valley in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class A tournament on Saturday at Whitehall’s Zephyr Sports Complex.
All of the scoring in the game occurred in the first half.
The Lions (22-1), the District One champions, earned a series of corners early in the game and made one pay when Erin Firth took a feed from Annelise Dahlin and found the cage a little over nine minutes into the game.
That lead was short-lived.
Sophia Gladieux answered for the Lynx (24-1) with an unassisted goal less than a minute later, the first goal given up by New Hope this season.
Gladieux took the lead for Oley Valley when she converted on a penalty stroke after New Hope’s MacKenzie Meyers stopped the ball in front of the cage with her body.
“Scoring first was a real lift for our team, absolutely, and unfortunately it sparked them too,” New Hope coach Gwen Smith said. “But it was good, really, I was proud that we were able to get on the board right away and see if we can compete.”
Sophia Mackrella netted an insurance goal for Oley Valley with 6:42 remaining in the first half to account for all of the scoring in the game.
“We didn’t let them score at all in the second half and that was definitely a bonus for us,” said Firth, a junior. “They scored three in the first half so obviously we knew they could score so to shut them out for a half was a victory for us.
“Those are the only goals we gave up all year so we can be proud of that.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s PIAA quarterfinal. Oley Valley handed the Lions their only loss in 2018 in that game.
“This is the team that knocked us out last year so we were thinking about that but our girls were ready,” Smith said. “We were more prepared this year. We needed to finish more. We had our opportunities. We just couldn’t finish. They had some beautiful goals and they came out on top.
“We hadn’t been scored on, but it doesn’t matter. They’re a team that can score so I told the girls before the game that we’re going to get scored on, we just need to be ready and I think the girls did a good job of that. After they scored the girls regrouped and were ready to go. I was really proud of them.
“We had our opportunities but we just didn’t make it happen.”
The Lions bid adieu to a large senior class.
“It’s always sad,” Smith said. “Last year we didn’t have any seniors so I didn’t have to say goodbye to anyone. This year I say goodbye to a big group of seniors so that’s always sad but I always look forward to next year. I look at this and think about what we can take from this game and what are we going to do next year.
“This game was a motivation for them last year and I have a feeling it will be again.”
Oley Valley, the District Three runner-up, took 13 shots on goal to eight for New Hope. The Lynx also had a 13-9 edge in penalty corners.
“We were really hoping for redemption this year, which didn’t happen, but we were really excited to have the chance to play them again,” Firth said. “We worked hard through the whole game.
“When we scored first, that was amazing. That was the highlight of the game for sure, and for a second we thought we had it but they just came back strong and we weren’t ready. When they put that stroke in, that’s what really hurt because that gave them the lead.”
Firth and her teammates can look back on the 2019 campaign with pride. The Lions were the Bicentennial Athletic League champions.
“This whole season was great,” Firth said. “I like to think of our team as a family. We go to a small school so we see each other every day. It’s sad that this was our last game.”
This was New Hope’s final season in the BAL. The Lions move to the Suburban One League in the fall of 2020.
“We’re looking forward to next year but we know it’s going to be different because we’re moving into the SOL,” said Firth, who also plays softball for New Hope. “We’re going to have a whole new team and a whole new league.
“It’s exciting because I think we’ll be playing teams that are more challenging but it’s also scary because we’re losing most of our starting lineup so we have to replace them and move into a more competitive league at the same time.
“It’s going to be hard but we’ll have to work hard and do our best.”