It was déjà vu for Twin Valley’s field hockey team Oct. 16 as the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Assocition championship game came to a close.
For the second year in a row, the Raiders beat out Oley Valley in a 1-0 match to win the BCIAA title. This year, however, the winning goal didn’t come until overtime.
Senior Natalie Wilkinson, who scored the winning goal, described the final drive of the game, coming after a “nerve racking penalty stroke.”
After driving down the field the Raiders were awarded a long hit. Kendra jones took the hit, did a spin move on the defender to get the ball in the circle and took her shot. It was blocked by the goalie, but Kelee Lepage took the rebound shot.
“The ball got past the goalie but was blocked by Oley’s defender on the line,” Wilkinson said. “Everyone started celebrating, thinking that it was a goal, but I had to make sure the goal wouldn’t be taken away from us. I got the second rebound and forced it into the back of the goal so we could once again be Berks County Champions.
“The feeling was incredible and made every bit of training worth it,” she added.
The Raiders are now taking the District III playoffs by storm. Twin Valley blanked Cedar Crest 5-0 Oct. 22 for a definitive first round victory, propelling them to a game against Warwick Saturday. That game ended with a tough 1-0 loss for the Raiders.
Both Wilkinson and Head Coach Brenda Hoffman see communication as the team’s biggest strength this year.
“I have never been on a team where we all get along and have each other’s backs no matter what,” Wilkinson said. “We pick each other up and go through everything together.”
Hoffman said the team’s level of communication is what enables them to move effectively and to intercept and control the ball so precisely.
“I am very proud of my team for repeating as county champs,” she said. “I told my players, ‘Winning championships takes talent, repeating takes character.’ My team understands and exemplifies the character it takes to win championships.”
The nine starters that returned from last year’s county championship team also know how to perform under pressure after last year’s experiences, and newcomers Hannah Menge, a freshman defender, and senior goalkeeper Darby Kzan also meshed well with the team, she added.
Moving forward in the tournament, Hoffman said she is expecting to see junior Ashley Hoffman double-teamed and will push other senior players to step up and make big plays. She added that the team is building more confidence in moving the ball up the sides of the field.
“There is not an easy game moving forward, so everyone will need to play controlled execution and 100 percent effort,” she said.
Wilkinson added that the coaching staff has intensified practices, focusing on basic skills, conditioning hard and tactical skills.
“We have evaluated the teams we will be playing next and focused on how we can use our skills to attack their weaknesses,” she said. The team plays Manheim Central Tuesday at a time and location to be announced.
But the team has taken time to acknowledge their successes so far.
“Coach Hoffman told me that since this is my last year at Twin Valley High School and playing with this team, that I should make each day special, and I feel that making it this far and achieving so much has made every day special and ones that we will never forget.”