Panthers dominate Appo 7-1 in Division I hockey tourney opener

Polytech head coach Lynn Richardson

WOODSIDE — Polytech High’s field hockey players would have liked to have a better finish to their regular season.

The Panthers lost two of their last three contests, including a setback to Cape Henlopen that decided the Henlopen Conference Northern Division title.

But none of that matters now that the DIAA Division I state tournament has started.

And third-seeded Polytech certainly looked like a team that had a new lease on life when it cruised to a 7-1 victory over No. 6 Appoquinimink in the tourney’s opening round on Thursday afternoon.

It was the eighth-straight year that the Panthers (11-5) have won a first-round tournament contest. They’ll get a rematch with No. 2 Cape Henlopen in Tuesday’s semifinals at Rullo Stadium in Newark.

“We had kind of an unfortunate end to the season, with playing three games in four days,” said Polytech coach Lynn Richardson. “We always say this is a whole new season. We start fresh. I think the kids came out with a great attitude.”

The Panthers took control right from the start. Less than two minutes into the game, senior Devon Ott found herself alone in front of the Jaguars’ goal and just had to tap in the ball to give Panthers a 1-0 lead.

When freshman Mairead McKibbin scored off a rebound with 3:32 left in the first half, Polytech’s advantage was up 4-1 over Appo (10-6), which had an eight-game winning streak snapped.

“It was a nice way to just jump on them and get a good start,” said senior defender Madison Knight. “It set the pace for us to keep it moving.”

“Every (state tournament) game is taken seriously,” said senior Maddi McKay. “It’s life or death at this point. If you lose, you lose — you’re out. If you win, you keep going.

“Everyone, obviously, wants to keep going.”

Ott and McKibbin both finished with two goals apiece for Polytech with McKay, MacKenzie Estrada and Jenna Morris adding one each. Panthers’ goalie Holly Rembold, with five saves, allowed only a first-half goal by Appo’s Sarah Symes.

Playing its final home game of the year, Polytech finished with advantages of 18-5 in shots and 9-6 in corners.

A year ago, when the DIAA state tourney had only one division, the Panthers won a pair of tournament games before losing to eventual state champion Delmar in the semifinals.

This year, Polytech doesn’t have to worry about facing Delmar. But Cape Henlopen, which beat the Panthers, 3-1, on Nov. 2 is still a formidable foe.

“I don’t think it really changes anything,” Knight said about the two-division format. “I think in Division I we still have a lot of competition.”

“We know what to do to get there,” said McKay. “We just have to try our hardest and see what happens. We lost to them (Cape) the first time. That gives us that much more motivation to try to beat them.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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