PALMYRA — Riley Batdorf couldn’t hear the buzz on the sideline, even though it grew louder from all sides as the minutes passed early in Selinsgrove’s state field hockey semifinal Tuesday.
“Goalie’s really good.”
“How old is she?”
“Riley’s playing a great game.”
Batdorf had the game of her young career, stopping 13 shots in the face of near constant threats from District 3 champion Palmyra. The junior first-year starter kept the Seals within a goal at halftime, and within striking distance until the Cougars tallied their third goal late in the third quarter of a 3-0 win.
“I knew if I wanted to give my seniors the opportunity to keep going and to keep it a close game, I knew I had to do everything in my power to stop every ball,” Batdorf said.
Selinsgrove goalies can bring a lounge chair and a good book to the cage for some games, but when they’re tested it’s often a situation where they have to deliver to keep the Seals competitive.
Batdorf was on her game from the start of Tuesday’s blustery semifinal, thwarting six first-quarter shots before Palmyra boosted the degree of difficulty with seven second-quarter penalty corners. Batdorf threw her padded legs at bullet shots, walled off the posts both on and off her feet, and even rolled a ball away with her gloved hand when on her backside in front of the cage at one point.
It took the pressure that comes with a 19-0 advantage in shots and 17-0 in corners to crack the Seals’ defense three times.
“What she did here tonight does not surprise me at all — it’s something that you hope for — and I really thought her supporting cast, the backs, did what we talked about,” said Selinsgrove coach Roz Erb. “We knew the caliber of players, the caliber of stickwork ... it’s collegiate-level stuff with (the Cougars’) abilities. We hadn’t seen that this year, and I asked our kids to play patient, smart defense, and I thought we did that.”
Palmyra (14-2) won its way to Saturday’s Class 2A state final against District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll, a 2-0 winner over District 11 winner Southern Lehigh.
Selinsgrove, which had a 10-game unbeaten streak and hadn’t lost since Sept. 30, finished the season 18-2-1. It was the Seals’ fourth state semifinal appearance, and the first since 2011.
“At the beginning of season, we didn’t know if we’d have one game,” said Hannah Smullen, one of 11 seniors. “And the fact that we’ve played until now, my heart is so happy.”
Though overwhelmed statistically, the Seals had some early possession and sprung a scoring chance late in the first quarter. Leah Toskey, a junior who was second on the team with 11 goals, won the ball outside the 25-yard line in the attacking end. She beat a pair of defenders into the top-left side of the circle for a reverse-chip that sailed wide left of the cage.
For the majority of the game, however, the Cougars did what Selinsgrove has done so often while winning 16 consecutive district championships: they turned around balls near midfield and blocked most all that crossed it.
“They play in arguably the best league in the state ... and everybody plays this type of possession game,” said Erb. “Elimination if necessary, but passing and vision. And I thought we’re maybe not quite used to that defensive pressure they put on. We didn’t have space to get much generated.”
Palmyra had a string of corners to open the second quarter but was frustrated until earning its sixth of the half with 7:30 to play. Maddie Hudson lifted a ball from the right post to freshman Keely Bowers in front for the game’s first goal. It remained a 1-0 score at halftime with Seals senior Hailey Bingaman making a defensive save and Batdorf stopping three shots on as many corners over the final 5:30.
“Once I got the first shot stopped, I knew it was going to be a good game,” said Batdorf, who had 12 saves in the half. “They were a very hard-hitting team; they have people in-circle all the time. I just had to be prepared for whatever.”
Cougars junior Alexa Derr whistled in a far-post goal off a corner insert just 3:35 into the second half. The Seals kept it at 2-0, with Batdorf making a couple lunges to the turf, until the final seconds of the period. Olivia Kirkpatrick’s top-center drive off a corner insert was tipped by Hudson in the middle of the circle past Batdorf with 23 seconds to play in the third.
“Riley is amazing,” said Smullen. “I couldn’t ask for a better goalie. I know that she has my back no matter what on the field.
“During times when we’re stressed, or down by how many, that girl will not give up at all. She’ll always give her best for all of us.”
Lonna Temple, a senior, relieved Batdorf with 4:25 to play and made three saves to cap a scoreless fourth quarter. Batdorf, left the field in tears but received a hero’s welcome on the sideline by coaches and teammates.
“She’s a gamer, and in the sense that she loves any challenge — even at practice,” said Erb. “She is always engaged, up and energetic, and she brings that to our team. It’s more than just saves with her.”
PIAA CLASS 2A FIELD HOCKEY
At Palmyra High School
Palmyra 3, Selinsgrove 0
P-Keely Bowers (Maddie Hudson), 6:57.
P-Alexa Derr (Avery Russell), 11:25; P-Hudson (Olivia Kirkpatrick), 0:23.
Shots: P, 19-0. Corners: P, 17-0. Cards: None. Defensive saves: Selinsgrove, Hailey Bingaman (2nd quarter, 8:30). Saves: Selinsgrove 16 (Riley Batdorf 13, Lonna Temple 3); Palmyra 0 (Katie Knol).