Fall sports season one of best in school history

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By Abby Bagby and Ben Shapiro, T/E Life Editor and News Editor Of Conestoga’s 10 fall sports — football, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, volleyball and field hockey — eight qualified for the district playoffs, five qualified for the state playoffs and one won its...

By Abby Bagby and Ben Shapiro, T/E Life Editor and News Editor

Of Conestoga’s 10 fall sports — football, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, volleyball and field hockey — eight qualified for the district playoffs, five qualified for the state playoffs and one won its respective state title.

For the second year in a row, the girls’ tennis team won the state championship and both soccer teams and the field hockey team played in the state playoffs. For the first time in eight years, the girls’ cross-country team made it to the state championships. 

Conestoga’s 2022 fall athletic season has been one of the most successful seasons in the school’s almost seven-decade-long history, according to Kevin Pechin, the school’s athletic director. 

On Nov. 7, even after the girls’ tennis team won its state title and the boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams finished their state competitions, Pechin was delighted with how many more games the school’s athletic department had on the calendar. The teams still in season continued to win.

“We’re one of the few schools that still has multiple teams going and competing. Playing for a state title is an incredible feeling and something I never got to do when I was in high school. I’m glad to be part of it here,” Pechin said. “It’s just really exciting that we are competing in every sport at an outstanding level.”

He attributes the awards and recognitions of the sports teams to their respective players and maintains a sense of pride as the athletic director due to the on-the-field work ethic of his student-athletes.

“Our kids perform so well because (of) their dedication to the programs throughout the year. It’s not when it’s football season, they start doing football; it’s that they train and they prepare for the season all year round,” Pechin said.

The regular seasons for high school fall sports typically end in mid-October. However, because of the strength of this year’s athletic program, Conestoga sent athletes to district and state-level competitions until Nov. 16.

Girls tennis wins state championship for second consecutive year

On Oct. 29, the girls’ tennis team won the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association 3A state championship for the second year in a row, defeating Unionville High School in a tight 3-2 win. Conestoga prevailed in two singles matches and one doubles match.

Juniors Kate Emmanuel and Jennifer He, second and third singles, won their matches in two sets with scores of 7-5, 6-2 and 7-5, 6-3, respectively. Senior Michelle Han and sophomore Sowmya Krishna secured a three-set win as second doubles with scores of 6-3, 6-4 and 7-5. 

The win was especially notable considering the team’s significant roster changes from last season. Several varsity players graduated since the previous state championship tournament.

“After the deciding match was won, we were all so emotional and sobbing, and we were all like, ‘This is huge! This is such a big win!’ because it’s not like we won last year and then had the same exact team back this year. Pretty much half of our varsity (team) was different,” said senior and captain Bella Chen.

After winning the highest-level award for a high school athletic team last year, He felt substantial in-match pressure this year to perform at the same level. However, for her, the nervousness paid off in the end.

“The expectations weren’t as high this year compared to last year, (but) being the defending champion is harder than you would think,” He said. “When we won states, it just didn’t feel real.”

Boys’ soccer team plays in state playoffs, again

Last year, the boys’ soccer team, just like the girls’ tennis team, won its state championships. The team looked like it would do the same this year; however, on Nov. 16, it lost its semi-final game to Seneca Valley High School 2-0.

On Sept. 17, the boys ended their undefeated run that started in 2019 with a 2-0 loss to the Holy Ghost Preparatory School. While the loss brought the team some disappointment, junior and central attacking midfielder Diego Ramirez looked at the situation’s positives, paving a new road for the rest of the season.

“We lost our streak of being undefeated for three-plus years, but I feel like that was a good thing. It sort of got pressure off of our shoulders and allowed us to realize we’re not going to be undefeated this whole year. At some point, stuff like that is going to have to come to an end. So it helped us realize that no matter what, we just got to keep on working,” Ramirez said.

The boys maintained a 16-2 record during their regular season and a 3-1 record throughout the District 1 Playoffs. The Pennsylvania state playoff games follow a single-elimination structure, which the team referred to as “jersey games.” 

“During jersey games, pretty much everything’s on the line — our season could be over. We could return our jerseys after that game,” Ramirez said. “So our mentality (was) just win one, focus on the next one; win one, focus on the next one.”

Girls soccer once again makes it to state playoffs

After a 2-0 loss during their state championship game last year, the girls’ soccer team was determined to surpass its previous season’s state runner-up title this year. However, on Nov. 12, the girls came up short in overtime, losing their quarterfinal game 2-1 to Neshaminy High School.

Despite the loss, junior and forward Tory Gauthier attributes much of the team’s success this year to the new all-female coaching staff. She found that, in comparison to their previous male counterparts, this year’s female coaches were able to connect with the team in a unique way.

“They’re bringing in new insight that we haven’t had (in) previous years,” Gauthier said. “The way these (female) coaches explain and do drills and help you out and give you feedback makes us all better. They push us all to be the best we can be, and I think that shows in the success we’ve been having.”

In addition to the loss of 16 graduating seniors at the end of the 2021 season, the girls’ new coaching staff facilitated a large change for this year’s team. Senior, captain and striker Brynn Borger noted that the new coaching style of focusing on the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses proved to be effective.

“This year, we focus more on game-to-game. We change how we play for the team we’re playing. At the beginning of the season, we went out and played how we always play. But, as we (got) farther, there’s more and more film of teams, so we see how they play and who their stronger players are,” Borger said.

Field Hockey plays in state playoffs for second year in a row

The field hockey team performed well during its 2021 season, making it to the state semi-finals and placing third in PIAA bracket 3A. Despite seeing nine seniors graduate last year — a similar loss to that of the girls’ tennis and soccer teams — this year’s team has continued to play at the same high level.

This season, the varsity team consisted of seven seniors, eight juniors, six sophomores and one freshman. The girls were the 2022 PIAA District 1 runners-up and, just like boys soccer, lost their semi-final game on Nov. 16. The girls maintained a 2-2 tie into overtime, but lost when Lower Dauphin High School managed to pull ahead and win 3-2.

Senior and defender Amanda Hill noted that Conestoga’s team consisted of a larger proportion of non-seniors than some of the other teams with which it competed. Nevertheless, the girls finished their regular season with a record of 17-1 and an overall record of 22-3.

“I was surprised this year because I know we have a lot of younger girls, and it’s kind of amazing that we’ve gone this far. Usually, other teams have a bunch of seniors, where we’re more of a younger team,” Hill said. “We’re just so connected. I think it’s amazing that we have such a special bond.”

Sophomore Shae Wozniak, a forward and midfielder, is one of the younger girls on the team. Wozniak just finished her second season playing on the varsity team and emphasized the importance of the girls’ collective drive both on and off the field.

“When it comes to practices, I think we all know that we have to work really hard and focus because that’s the only way that we’ll win our games. So, we put in a lot of hustle and hard work,” Wozniak said.

Cross Country sends runners to tate championship 

The boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams had successful seasons this fall, with numerous runners qualifying for the state championship races.

From the boys’ team, junior Shane Walsh and freshman Parker Warkentine qualified for states. Warkentine is the fastest freshman in the state and placed 19th overall in the tournament. Walsh feels that the team’s bond was key to its successful performance.

“Without support, there’s no way you can move forward, so we’re very close-knit,” Walsh said.

Senior and captain James Johnson also found maintaining team chemistry to be crucial. He felt that the group bonded naturally both during and outside of practice.

“You can’t really run 10 miles and not be bored unless you’re talking with some of your friends while you’re running, so we’ve formed strong bonds there,” Johnson said. “We had a big turnout of people that went to states and districts and cheered everyone on.”

The girls qualified for states as a team for the first time since 2014 and the second time since 2004. They finished 13th in the state. Senior and captain Natalie Haracz felt that the team’s connection greatly contributed to the season’s success.

“I feel like that’s the number one thing: just helping each other out,” Haracz said. “That’s what helps our training because it’s so mentally tough. Having someone else near you that’s your biggest supporter really helps you get through each run because you’re doing it together.”


Abby Bagby can be reached at [email protected]

Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected]

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