The 2008 field hockey season was one of surprises, not the least of which was Merion Mercy Academy's run to the PIAA Class AA championship game, in which it dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to heavily favored Wyoming Seminary.

The Golden Bears were third in the District 1 playoffs but rebounded to beat Oley Valley, Indian Valley and Christopher Dock before losing to Wyoming Seminary.

Another surprise was Central Bucks South, which made it to the semifinals in the Class AAA bracket before losing to Hershey.

The Titans had finished second to eight-time Suburban One League National Conference champion Neshaminy in the District 1 final. But they beat Stroudsburg and Cardinal O'Hara to reach the state semifinals.

O'Hara made its debut in the PIAA district playoffs a winning one by upsetting Wissahickon in the opening round. But that was after perennial powers O'Hara and Archbishop Carroll had been eliminated from the Catholic League playoffs before reaching the final. (The Catholic League chose the teams with the best regular-season records to go to districts.)

Kennedy-Kenrick scored a 2-1 overtime win over Archbishop Prendergast in the league title game. It was Kennedy-Kenrick's first championship since 1997. Prendergast had not been in a final since 1979.

Episcopal Academy grabbed a share of the Inter-Academic League crown for the first time since 1999. A big 4-1 win over Notre Dame in their second meeting gave the Churchwomen a tie for the title with the Irish.

Team of the year

Merion Mercy gets the nod over Central Bucks South on the basis of its trip to the state finals. Both teams went further than expected.

The Golden Bears weren't given much of a chance against Wyoming Seminary, which boasted a pair of high school all-Americans and a 22-1 record going into the championship game.

But after falling behind, 1-0, early in the game, Merion cut the Blue Knights' lead to 3-2 with plenty of time remaining in the second half. It couldn't get the tying goal.

"It feels good to be a winner, but my hat's off to Merion," veteran Wyoming coach Karen Klassner said after the game.

This was only Merion's second appearance in the state playoffs. In 2007, the Golden Bears fell to Oley Valley, 1-0, on a penalty stroke in the opening round.

For the Titans, it was their first appearance in the state playoffs in the school's five-year history.

Coaches of the year

Merion's Jen Campbell and Central Bucks South's Meg Hutchinson share the honors in this category.

Campbell took her team to a school-best 18-7-1 mark in her seventh season. After a tough 2-1 loss to eventual District 1 champion Villa Maria in the district playoffs, Merion went on a four-game winning streak.

South started the season by losing two of its first three games but found it could compete with the area's best in a 1-1 tie with Neshaminy on Sept. 29. At the time, the Redskins were unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer. Neshaminy was stunned by Wilson of West Lawn, the fifth-place team from District 3, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

After the tie with Neshaminy, the Titans went on an eight-game winning streak before losing to Neshaminy on strokes in the district title game.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 610-696-2652

or dbeideman@phillynews.com.