Keystone State Games: Pocono 1 Team Bested In OT
KINGSTON — Sunday’s Keystone State Games championship game was nothing new for most of Pocono 1’s scholastic field hockey players.
s 1The age group that includes rising seniors and juniors was 16-deep for Pocono 1, which consisted entirely of Wyoming Valley Conference athletes. Thirteen of those players came from a WVC team that made it to a 2017 District 2 championship game.
That made Sunday’s final far from unchartered territory for what resembled a WVC all-star team of sorts. It certainly wasn’t new for Valley West junior goalkeeper Sydney Rusnock, whose Spartans have won the last two D2 Class 2A titles on the same exact turf and also reached the PIAA final in 2017.
“Playing in the state playoffs, that’s the highest you can get to in high school,” Rusnock said.
Despite so much WVC talent converging on one team, though, Lehigh Valley 1 left the local squad waiting until this fall for its next chance at a gold medal. A scoreless game went to overtime before Emmaus senior Riley Baughman scored on a rebound to earn Lehigh Valley 1 a 1-0 victory and the KSG’s scholastic championship Sunday at Wyoming eminary’s Nesbitt Stadium.
Pocono 1 field hockey fared well at all levels throughout the Keystone State Games, which returned to Luzerne County this summer and wraps up today with golf. The area’s junior age group went undefeated in pool play before falling to Lehigh Valley 1 in Sunday’s final, 1-0; at the youth age level, Pocono 1 went 7-0 in pool play.
Upperclassmen weeks away from leading their WVC teams represented Pocono’s scholastic team from Coughlin, Crestwood, Dallas, Lake-Lehman, Valley West and Wyoming Seminary. Valley West shut out Crestwood for last year’s D2 Class 2A title, and Wyoming Seminary blanked Lake-Lehman in the Class A final.
But everyone was on the same side over the past few days of tryouts, practices and competition, including 2017 all-state selections Hannah Maxwell, (Seminary), Aubrey Mytych (Seminary), Emily Farrell (Dallas), Rina Tsioles (Valley West), Mackenzie Kile (Crestwood), Karaline Stelma (Valley West).
“We all click as a team. You’d think we’d be rivals playing against each other from other schools,” Rusnocky said, “but we just seemed to mesh really well.”
Pocono 1 coach Jean Lipski has seen them all from the opposite bench as Lake-Lehman’s head coach, but she saw firsthand how they could work together. Lehigh Valley handed Pocono its lone pool-play loss Saturday, 2-0, but it had a much tougher time finding the cage Sunday against a team building chemistry on the fly.
“They played together so well, they trusted each other and they were all great girls,” Lipski said. “I wish I could take them on the road with me and go do tournaments because they were such a joy to coach.”
Rusnock, the runner-up’s second-half goalie, has gotten to experience three straight silver-medal finishes in the KSG, she said.
“It’s a great warm-up for our season, especially since we’re looking to return to the state final,” she said.
Much like last year with the Spartans, Rusnock came off the bench to play keeper following halftime Sunday. She didn’t have much time to settle in, as Lehigh Valley took a handful of corners and forced her to slide in front of a number of shots in the third quarter.
A deflection sent a 2-on-1 break Rusnock’s way early in the 7-on-7 overtime period, but Rusnock made a clutch save then, too. Tsioles and Farrell were strong on the back line and eventually cleared the ball, but Lehigh Valley found the winner on its next trip down.
The final whistle marked the end of Lipski’s time working with some of the WVC’s best talent. Now, it’s back to coaching against the majority of her KSG team.
“I told them if they really liked me, they’d take a little edge of their game when we play them,” Lipski laughed.
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