PHILADELPHIA – And then there were four.
Just four teams are still standing in the PIAA Class AAA Tournament, and one of those – Central Bucks South – has surprised even itself.
“It’s crazy,” senior Gretchen Kempf said after South’s 3-0 win over Cardinal O’Hara in Saturday’s quarterfinal game. “We definitely never thought we would be here.
“Each day we’re like, ‘We’re still practicing. We still have games, and it’s November.’ This has never happened. This is the longest season in history for our school. Everyone is really excited.”
The magic carpet ride that is the 2008 season has seen the Titans win 19 of their last 21 games after losing two of their first three to open the season. Their only blemishes are a 1-1 tie with Neshaminy during the regular season and a loss to the Redskins in penalty strokes in the district title game.
“We’re kind of like the Cinderella story – the team that everybody underestimates,” senior co-captain Julia Goldsworthy said. “We’re the underdog.
“This is giving us more confidence – winning 17 games in a row now.”
Then Goldsworthy remembered last week’s loss to Neshaminy in the district final.
“That doesn’t really count – that was just a little setback,” she said with a laugh. “It’s unreal. It’s unexplainable.”
The best explanation for the Titans’ success might simply be that they’re that good. The Titans boast the deadly combination of speed and skill, and it’s serving them well now that they’ve taken their game to turf.
Saturday’s game on a wet turf at the Germantown supersite against an O’Hara team that plays a decidedly different style of hockey all but negated South’s strengths, and it took awhile for the Titans to get rolling.
“Our coach kind of compared them to Pennridge, and we struggled against them the first game,” Goldsworthy said of a game the Titans lost. “They’re kind of that scrappy team that is fast, quick and aggressive, so we figured we’d have to use the same strategy we used when we played Pennridge the second time.”
O’Hara actually drew an early corner, but the Titans connected on their first shot of the game when sophomore Casey Haegele turned a pass from Sarah Hasson into a goal at the 21:15 mark of the opening half.
“That was huge,” Kempf said. “That definitely puts the mentality into the game – ‘we got this.’ After that, everyone loosened up, and we could play our game.”
The Titans drew six first-half corners but couldn’t really muster any offense off of them, and thoughts of O’Hara’s stunning 2-1 opening round win over Wissahickon in overtime had to be running through their heads.
“I think I was more nervous for this game than I was for Neshaminy,” coach Meg Hutchinson said. “A team like this can throw you off-balance. The ball’s coming back at you pretty fast, and they’re just hitting, hitting, hitting, and we kind of got sucked into that for a while, and it’s very easy to get sucked into that.
“We talked about it – We’ve got to play our game. We’ve got to play our game,’ and they did, and they scored when they did that.”
The Titans tacked on an insurance goal when Ally Bradley sent a strong ball into the circle that found its way to Kempf in front of the cage. The dangerous senior forward – in a crowd of defenders – deflected the ball into the cage for a 2-0 Titan lead at the 2:36 mark.
Despite their dominance in the opening half, the Titans managed just two shots on goal and scored on both.
“That’s one of our biggest problems – we’ll have so much circle penetration but will only get a couple of shots,” Kempf said.
The Titans went on top 3-0 when Kempf turned a Hasson pass from the right side into a goal midway through the second half. The only question that remained was whether the Titans could keep O’Hara off the scoreboard.
O’Hara drew a pair of late corners and took three shots, but South goalie Liz Lewellan turned away all three to preserve the shutout.
“We figure as long as we played our game and pass the way we always do and keep shooting – there’s no chance they’re going to be able to get in,” Hasson said. “Our defense is so strong that we can step in front of them and play the game the way we always do.
“As a senior – we’ve never even gotten past the second round of (district) playoffs. To be in the final four of states now is awesome. It’s a great feeling.”
The Titans will face Hershey in a semifinal game on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Governor Mifflin High School in Shillington. Hershey, District Three's fourth place team, upset District Three champion Lower Dauphin 2-1 in quarterfinal action. In the first half of the hockey twinbill, Central Dauphin – a 4-1 winner over Wilson – will face Penn Manor. Penn Manor upset defending state champion Emmaus 3-2 in overtime in quarterfinal action.
CENTRAL BUCKS SOUTH 3, CARDINAL O'HARA 0
Central Bucks South 2 1-3
Cardinal O'Hara 0 0-0
Goals/Assists: CB South - Gretchen Kempf 2-0, Casey Haegele 1-0, Sarah Hasson 0-2, Ally Bradley 0-1.
Shots: CBS-6, CO-6.
Corners: CBS-8, CO-5.
Saves: Lydia Keener (CBS) 1, Liz Lewellan (CBS) 3, MaryKate O'Connell (CO) 2.