The Central field hockey team put together a winning formula this season that resulted in the program's first Public League title.
Myra Granato scored three goals and was named MVP of the game as the Lancers defeated Northeast, 4-0, on Wednesday to claim the title. Loren Zalzman also scored.
Central was finally able to get over the hump this season after suffering heartbreaking losses in the semifinals each of the last two years. In 2015, during Gina Donnelly's first season as head coach, the Lancers lost, 1-0, with 13 seconds left. That was followed up by a 2-1 loss in overtime last season.
"They are a determined group," said Donnelly. "They make adjustments and get it done. We are finishing what we started three years ago."
This year's team was led by a group of 10 seniors composed of by Granato, Sabrina Lai, Amirah Mitchell, Adela Qalliaj, Seydel Acuna, Jenn Martinez, Elena Cruz-Adames, Nicole Umeweni, Kaila Caffey and Kate-Lynn Rice. Martinez and Cruz-Adames were team captains.
"Getting so close to the championship the last two years definitely motivated us this year," said assistant coach Kristin Haskins. "The seniors have really stepped up improving across the board. They are overachievers."
Granato was a force on offense with 19 goals and was among the top stat leaders on philafieldhockey.com. Rice, Cruz-Adames and Umeweni held down the back line and shared the honor of defensemen of the week earlier this season.
Central, which went undefeated in the Public League, scored 52 goals to go along with a goals-allowed average of 0.58.
All the ingredients came together thanks to a tight-knit group of girls guided by successful coaching.
The coaching staff added film study this year and paired up the seniors with the underclassmen to help players learn from one another and ensure team chemistry. The main teaching points focused on positioning and new strategies on corner plays.
"Coach Donnelly holds athletes accountable to knowing the rules and doing things until they get it right," said Haskins. "No excuses. Late to practice or missing practice affects playing time."
The girls worked hard and hsd players-only meetings after practice. But they kept the mood light by dancing during warm-ups and doing a cheer before each game.
"The message is always to play for one another and to take each game one at a time," said Haskins. "Show your skill and development. Outplay yourselves each time."
Central can qualify for the state tournament with a win in Saturday's District 12 title game.