An up-and-down season ended on a high note for Sacred Heart’s field hockey team.
In the championship for the third straight season, the Valkyries came out strong and never trailed, beating Manual 3-1 Thursday night in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association state title game at Bellarmine’s Frazier Stadium.
Quincy Hernandez, Caroline Brotzge and Katie Esselman scored for Sacred Heart, which claimed its first crown since 2012. The goal scoring trio were among 10 seniors on the team, many of whom had played on varsity the previous two teams.
“We really wanted to come out and get revenge for what we’ve been feeling,” said Esselman, who added an assist on Brotzge’s goal in the first half.
The Valkyries (22-6-1) came out as the aggressors in the first half, outshooting the Crimsons 6-2. It was part of coach Eleanor Mitchell’s game plan to come out early and attack. A couple times early, the Valkyries were able to get past the Manual defense for scoring opportunities, but couldn’t convert.
Still, it set the tempo in the Valkyries favor, and when they got a penalty corner with less than 14 minutes left in the first half, they were able to capitalize when Hernandez redirected Kate Brewer’s shot into the goal.
“They, from minute one, pushed for it,” said Mitchell, who was doused with ice water by her players on the chilly fall night. “That made all the difference in the whole game, I think.”
The Crimsons (17-5-2), who last won a field hockey title in 2011, had opportunities in the first half to get on the board, but they could not get past keeper Meghan Strite and her defenders.
“We played hard, but we didn’t play our game tonight,” said Manual coach Brittany Tolan, whose team was outshot 13-7.
Coming into the state tournament – in the second year the sport has been sanctioned by KHSAA – Sacred Heart had stretches of inconsistency. Earlier this month, the Valkyries lost three of four games. A few team meetings were called, Esselman said, and Mitchell said the team had become complacent.
“It’s been an up-and-down season, so for them to come back and win was really amazing,” Mitchell said.
Sacred Heart 3 (Quincy Hernandez, Caroline Brotzge, Katie Esselman), Manual 1 (Meredith Wickenheiser).