Oct. 27—KINGSTON — An early offensive barrage from Wyoming Valley West proved the difference maker, as the Spartans scored three of their four goals in the first half to hold off Hazleton Area 4-1 on Thursday night at Spartan Stadium.
The victory sends Valley West back to the District 2 Class 3A field hockey championship, where they'll take on top-seeded Honesdale in a rematch of the 2022 final.
"We're really excited, I'm glad we made it this far," said Spartans midfielder Riley Dwyer, who scored two goals to lead the way for Valley West. "We've definitely had the potential all season to get this far, we were definitely capable."
The Spartans came out firing, and that first-half intensity ended up carrying the game for Valley West.
Dwyer struck first, with about five minutes left in the first quarter. The junior found herself in perfect position among a sew of red and white jerseys, coming up with a loose ball and sliding it in the corner of the cage to give Valley West the early edge.
Chelsea Kolesar would add another first-quarter goal for the Spartans, and Dwyer would add her second goal of the game early in the second quarter.
Both of Dwyer's goals were assisted by teammate Laila Zdancewicz, a capable goal-scorer of her own who commanded a ton of attention from the Hazleton Area defense all night long, freeing up teammates like Dwyer.
"We just work together as a team, that's what got us here," Dwyer said. "We have really good communication with each other."
At the half, Valley West had nine shots on goal, compared to just one from Hazleton Area, and a 3-0 lead.
But the Cougars wouldn't roll over: a second half played with a renewed energy brought the game to a much more even keel.
Hazleton cracked the scoreboard late in the third quarter, Abby Smithnosky scoring off of a pass from teammate Lauren Harmonosky.
"We were sluggish in the beginning, we've been struggling all season to score," said Hazleton Area head coach Mary Kelly. "To our credit, we got ourselves jacked up and went back out there and really played well."
The Cougars had themselves plenty of opportunities to chip further at the lead, but the Spartans defense responded to the heightened pressure down the stretch.
Hazleton was able to string together a number of penalty corners right in a row in the final quarter, but couldn't find the cracks in the Valley West defense.
An insurance goal was added by Addison Marcin early in the fourth quarter, and Valley West was able to lean on that stout defense to carry them to the final whistle and a spot in the district championship.
"Credit to Hazleton, they never gave up and they played a really nice game," Spartans head coach Linda Fithian said. "Our intensity, these guys just have it within them."
The District 2 Class 3A title game is set for Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. at Lake-Lehman High School.
District 2 Class 3A Semifinals
Wyoming Valley West 4, Hazleton Area 1
Hazleton Area'0'0'1'0 — 1
Wyo. Valley West'2'1'0'1 — 4
First quarter: 1. WVW Riley Dwyer (Laila Zdancewicz) 5:13; 2. Chelsea Kolesar (Addison Marcin) 1:16. Second quarter: 1. WVW Dwyer (Zdancewicz) 12:48. Third quarter: 1. HAZ Abby Smithnosky (Lauren Harmonosky) 2:55. Fourth quarter: 1. WVW Marcin (Charlotte Yelen) 8:41.
Shots: HAZ 5, WVW 12. Saves: HAZ 7 (Gretchen Darr), WVW 4 (Kayla Sewell). Corners: HAZ 9, WVW 7.