As the final seconds ticked off of Saturday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League field hockey championship, Penn Manor coach Matt Soto could be heard telling his team how proud he was.
The coach had no choice but to say that. The Comets played that well against Lampeter-Strasburg.
Penn Manor survived an early push from the Pioneers, then scored twice in the first half and three times in the final quarter to reclaim the league championship, 5-0.
It marked the Comets' third title in four seasons, with the only exception being L-S in 2019. After defeating Lancaster-Mennonite in Thursday’s semifinals, Penn Manor played even better in Saturday’s finale at Conestoga Valley.
“I think we were more focused, and it helped playing a game recently. We were ready, and there was some motivation in there. They really, really wanted this one,” Soto said. “It just hurt that we weren’t in the championship last year. Credit our opponents, but it was our turn. We played really well today.”
Malayna Kahl scored the first two goals for Penn Manor, and Jasmine Miller notched the next three.
Kahl took a pass from Olivia Cox, moved in a few feet and flipped a shot past Pioneers' goalkeeper Brooke Zuber.
Only 11 seconds before halftime, Kahl jumped on a rebound of Miller’s shot and made it 2-0 at the break.
“We really just wanted it. The (Pioneers) did, too. It was a challenge, but we did really well,” Kahl said. “(The goal) was what we needed, but my teammates really helped me. It wasn’t just me.”
Comets' keeper CC Charles was a huge factor in the opening quarter, when the Pioneers poured six shots on goal, including one in the opening minute of the game.
Three minutes after Kahl got the scoring started, Charles’ quick reactions robbed L-S sophomore Rowan Kimmel in close. The junior goalie made two more saves immediately after, allowing Penn Manor to escape the first quarter with a 1-0 lead.
“L-S had a great game in the first half, and we were fortunate to pour some on later,” Soto said. “CC made some good plays early on that kept us at 0-0 and allowed us to relax a little bit. That’s what she does. She’s the best goalie we’ve seen for a long time.”
After a scoreless third quarter, it took Miller only 66 seconds to make it a three-goal game, capping the second of consecutive corners when she converted Tristan Groff's feed.
A little more than a minute later, Miller struck again, this time from Kahl, and Miller finished her natural hat trick when she tucked home a rebound after a brilliant save from Zuber.
“We are really grateful,” Miller said. “We worked really hard, and all the teams are so good. They definitely helped us, and we knew that playing L-S wasn’t going to be easy. We were just glad to put it away.”
Both teams head into District Three play next week, Penn Manor in Class 3A and L-S in 2A.
Pioneers' coach Katrina Swarr told her team to get ready for the second season.
“I told them there are only two teams here today, so to be one of the two teams is something to be excited about and something to be proud of, which I am,” she said. “(The Comets) were going to be hard to beat.
“They're a quality team — they always are, and we knew that coming in. I don’t think we played our best game, but that’s not to take anything away from what they did. They played well.”