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Barons Have Special Support in Latest Bid for District Crown

Lancaster County, PA – So, let’s get this party started. Or, in the case of the Manheim Central field hockey team, they’d like to pick up where they left off “” 30 years ago. It was way back in 1976 when the borough of Manheim celebrated the Barons’ first state team title in school history, a crown brought home by its field hockey squad in the third PIAA Championship Tournament ever contested. “It was an awesome pinnacle of our hockey days,” said Sue Young Nicholas, who played goalie for the “˜76 squad. “It was a great culmination for an outstanding group of young ladies,” said Julie Dickson, who coached that championship team. Dickson and Nicholas, now an insurance agent and attorney, respectively, in Manheim, fondly remember that championship team. What they don’t know too much about is this year’s squad, other than that the Barons won their first section title since 1995 and that they’ve been playing some pretty impressive hockey. So Dickson and Nicholas got a first-hand look at the 2006 Barons when they dropped by practice Monday, the team’s final tune-up before opening district play. Unlike back in 1976, when Dickson said a team had to win its section to get to leagues, its league to get to districts, and its district to get to states, this year’s District Three Tournament was opened to any team with an overall record of .500 or better. The 16-team bracket was maintained, but play-in games began last Friday to whittle the number of teams that qualified “” 25 in Class AAA, 27 in Class AA “” down to 16. The six county teams left in the tournament will play first-round games at 3:30 p.m. today. In Class AAA, two-time defending champion and No. 2 seed Warwick (19-1-2) hosts No. 15 Hershey (11-4-6), which it beat 4-0 for the 2005 title, No. 6 Penn Manor (17-3-2) hosts No. 11 Red Lion (10-6-1), No. 9 Hempfield (13-6-0) travels to Daniel Boone (10-9-1), which entered as No. 25, but knocked off Mechanicsburg 1-0 in the play-in round to take over the No. 8 seed, and No. 16 Ephrata (9-9-0) meets top seed Lower Dauphin (21-0-0), the only team to defeat Warwick this year. In Class AA, No. 2 seed Lancaster Mennonite (15-2-1) hosts No. 15 Bermudian Springs (15-3-2), No. 5 Pequea Valley (14-4-0) hosts No. 12Greenwood (14-5-0) and No. 8 Lancaster Christian (15-1-0) hosts No. 9 Oley Valley (18-3-2). As for the Barons (15-4-2), they’ll face No. 13 Central York (13-6-0) on the new A-Turf artificial surface at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Stadium. Dickson, after walking on the field Monday, may have been a little jealous of the current conditions under which second-year head coach Michelle Haydt guides her team. When Dickson was coaching back in the 1960s, the team played not only on the converted cornfield that is now a parking lot beside the high school, but also on a field that had a tree growing within the boundaries when they played on the grass beside Elden Rettew. “It was dreadful to teach hockey and develop skills on what we played on,” Dickson said. “To be able to develop skills on turf is wonderful exposure at the high school level.” While it may have been difficult to refine skills back then, Dickson had a way of turning out a great product year in and year out. Her championship team had set a goal of winning states back when they were together as ninth-graders. However, they had a difficult time adjusting to Dickson’s innovative (at the time) lineup of using four forwards instead of five. “We had a rough start when I changed the style of play,” Dickson recalled. “Then, we pulled it together and began to just dominate our opponents. We played a control game, played a lot in our offensive end and back then, they used penetration time to break ties. (Penetration time was defined as offensive possession within the opponents’ 25-yard line. In the event of a tie, the team with more penetration time was declared the winner). That would play a huge part in the state finals, as Central and Springfield (Delco) battled to a 1-1 draw through regulation and one overtime period. Nicholas, despite playing with a pulled hamstring, made one spectacular kick save in OT to preserve the tie and, ultimately, help her team win the state crown. “It’s a fun little piece of history for all of us to own,” Nicholas said of capturing that state title. While this year’s team wouldn’t mind having a piece of history like that as well, the Barons aren’t fooling themselves. They are not favored to win districts, as that honor has fallen upon Lower Dauphin or Warwick, and are coming off a disappointing performance in a 3-0 loss to Penn Manor in the L-L League semifinals. They are, though, in a pretty good position in the top half of the bracket. If they get past CY, the Barons would meet the winner between Central Dauphin (15-4-2) and New Oxford (14-5-1). LD would then await in the semifinals. CY tied for third with South Western in Division One of the YAIAA behind champ Dallastown (14-3-1) and runner-up New Oxford. The Panthers are backstopped by goalie Lacey Jackson, while the offense is led by Carli Shutter and sisters Caitlin and Darcey Peterson, all seniors (individual statistics not available). MC is led by four senior captains: Penn State recruit Daneen Zug (11 goals, 8 assists), Kendra Longenecker (7, 4), Meredith Hurst (2, 2) and goalie Whitney Clugston (81 save percentage, five shutouts). Zug feels that falling to the Comets may have actually pumped up the squad. “I think (losing at) leagues made us stronger,” she said. “We’re ready. We know we have to pick (our play) up. We don’t want to lose again.” Maybe they can channel the spirit of that 1976 team and Nicholas, for her part, is willing to help. “Our karma is with them,” she said.

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