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Upper Perkiomen’s Penalty Corner Conversion Clinches State Tournament Berth
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Rather than wait for direction from the sideline, AiYi Young said the players on the field decided to go with an indirect insert on a pivotal penalty corner during the 

District One Class AA field hockey playoffs.  "It worked two nights earlier, so we went back to it," said Young, a sophomore on Upper Perkiomen's field hockey team.

            Hope Flack's goal, off an assist from Young with 6 minutes and 35 seconds remaining in the second half, lifted the Indians to a 2-1 victory over Merion-Mercy Academy in the second round of the playoffs on Oct. 27.

            Abriana Gatto and Liz Fox dribbled out the final minute in an offensive corner of the field to help their team advance to the semifinal round of districts and clinch a berth in the PIAA Class 2A Championships.  "It's always exciting to play in the state tournament," head coach Jamie Warren said.

            On Tuesday, Upper Perkiomen (18-4), the No.4 seed, lost to top-seeded Villa Maria Academy 11-1 in the semi-final round. The team will host Great Valley in the third-place game Friday before opening play in states on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

In the hard-fought game against Merion-Mercy, Young helped Upper Perkiomen qualify for states and which earned a measure of revenge against the No. 5 seeded Golden Bears, who won to advance to states in a similar round.

In the rematch, Young scored on a penalty stroke with 4:45 remaining in the first half to force a 1-1 tie.  "We didn't have many scoring chances," said Young, a sophomore. "However, we executed when we had to, and our defense help up."

            Merion-Mercy scored the initial goal less than three minutes in the game. Arianna Liavelle converted a pass from Victoria Arra on a penalty corner.

Young's game-tying goal came after the officials ruled that Golden Bears goalkeeper Kristen Rake covered the ball, according to Warren.

            "She must have been on top of it," the coach said. "Because otherwise, we would have put the ball in the cage. Our girls were all over it."

            Young, Warren's choice to take the penalty stroke, said she felt confident and comfortable facing the opposing goalkeeper.  "We practice those all the time," Young said. "I didn't think too much about it, because I if I did that I would have felt the pressure."

Merion-Mercy forced the action during the second half. The team earned eight penalty corners, including four straight during the middle of the half.

            However, the Indians took advantage of their last best scoring chance. Gatto inserted a penalty corner pass to Young, who fired a pass in the direction of Flack, located near the opposite goal post.  "Hope is always at that corner," Young said. "She was there to tip it in the cage."  

            On Oct. 25, the Indians – who rebounded from a disappointing loss to Owen J. Roberts in the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs – opened the district playoffs with a 5-0 victory over Bishop Shanahan. Flack finished with two goals and one assist. Gatto, Kaylie Ciwy Colleen Creneti also scored.

            "I was not concerned about how we would bounce back," Warren said. "This is a brand new season, when teams are supposed to play their best. All the girls played well. They were on top of their game."

Upper Perkiomen's defense did not allow a shot on goal against goalkeeper Alyse Thompson.

            "We blocked every shot," Flack said. "Our defensive players did a good job keeping their sticks low."  "The defense really stepped up," Flack said.  "Our passing was amazing," Flack said.

            Creneti's goal less than four minutes into the game, off an assist from Flack, opened the scoring. Gatto s scored with 13:02 left in the half. An unassisted tally by Flack 10 minutes later staked the team to a 3-0 halftime lead.

            Midway through the second half, the Indians converted on consecutive penalty corners against the 13th-seeded Eagles.

            "We have focused lately on converting those opportunities," Warren said. "Our inserts have not been that good all season, but we have gotten better at it."





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