Wyoming Sem coach Karen Klassner hits 700th win in District 2 field hockey final
KINGSTON, Pa. - October 29, 2019 - With a two-goal lead and two minutes left, Karen Klassner got too sentimental to hold it in anymore.
With the 700th victory of her long and illustrious coaching career all-but assured, the sometimes stoic and often no-nonsense leader of Wyoming Seminary’s (Sem) field hockey program broke down and cried.
“I started thinking about all the kids,” Klassner said. “When you reach a milestone, it’s really because of your kids. It really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with you.
“I was very emotional.”
Making history will sometimes do that.
Emma Watchilla scored the game’s first goal Tuesday, Hannah Maxwell added another and Wyoming Seminary opened the door for Klassner’s entrance into an elite 700-win coaching club by shutting down Wyoming Area, 2-0, at Spartan Stadium for the program’s first-ever District 2 Class A three-peat.
“She definitely deserves it,” Maxwell, Sem’s leading scorer who played such a huge part in the Blue Knights’ previous two District 2 titles, said of Klassner. “She (Klassner) definitely deserves it. She didn’t think we knew about the 700th win, but we did. Everyone knew this was a big game.
Klassner became just the seventh coach in the country to attain 700 high school field hockey victories.
“Seven-hundred victories, that’s a huge accomplishment,” said Wyoming Area coach Erin McGinley, who was once an all-state goalkeeper at Sem while adding more than a few of those victories to Klassner’s coaching ledger. “No one can take that away.”
The only field hockey coach Sem has ever know tried to keep the approaching milestone from her players, to the extent that she was became extra cautious about the mentioning the mark within earshot of the team in the days leading up the event.
“I didn’t want to put that pressure on them,” she said, before chuckling. “When I was going for my 600th win, everybody knew about it. And it took five or six games to get it. I didn’t want that to happen again.”
Not a chance with this defending PIAA Class A championship team.
The Blue Knights locked down Wyoming Area’s high-powered offensive attack and goalie Mia Magnotta made nine saves to earn the shutout as 19-2 Sem readied for another state run, entering the start of PIAA play against the District 3 No. 4 team Tuesday as the top seed from District 2. For the second straight time, and second time in program history, 18-2-1 Wyoming Area will go too — as the District 2 No. 2 team — and play the District 2 champion in a state opener.
“We played really well,” McGinley said. “We just didn’t put the ball in the cage. God, we had so many opportunities — shots and corners, tons of touches. It happens. We feel like they played a fantastic game of field hockey.”
Magnotta stood tall, though. A junior who is committed to Iowa, the goalie knocked away shot after shot to thwart more than a few prime attempts by Wyoming Area to rally back into it during the second half.
“They’re all a challenge,” Magnotta said. “I’m really happy we can accomplish a really big achievement for Klassner with this team. Klassner’s just a great woman’s coach. She’s very tough on you, but it’s all out of love. She just wants the best for us, as players and as a team.”
That team marked the milestone in style.
The Blue Knights brought balloons and had t-shirts made to signify Klassner’s 700th victory emblazoned with the phrase, “We’ve got Klass” on the back.
Before joining the medal ceremony, Klassner pulled one on.
“If you hang around long enough, it’ll eventually happen,” said Klassner, who is in her 48th season coaching field hockey at Sem. “For the kids, it’s special. It really is. It’s an achievement for me and for the school.
“We really wanted to win it for the third time.”
From the start, the Blue Knights were charmed.
Watchilla chopped in a reverse chip that went high and into the cage less then three minutes into the game to get Sem playing ahead.
“When you get the ball to Emma, she’s going to do everything she can to put the ball in the cage,” Maxwell said. “Getting the first goal of the game is a comfort. Definitely takes a lot of pressure off. Not that you’re ever going to relax, but it gives us a little bit of security for the moment.”
A little bit later, Maxwell had her own moment.
On Wyoming Valley West’s home field where she began her field hockey career before transferring starting high school at Sem, Maxwell beat a Warriors defender to the ball in the circle with a lunging reverse chip of her own. It smacked against the back of the cage, and the Blue Knights had breathing room with a 2-0 lead and the game’s final goal 20:38 from halftime.
“It definitely means a lot, especially with our team,” said Maxwell, a senior headed for Wake Forest next year. “Especially doing it here, where I started. I saw it open and I popped it. Not really a plan, just kind of what was open in the circle. It wasn’t a beautiful shot, but it went in. That’s all that matters.”
With that, the Blue Knights made their mark as the first Sem team to win three District 2 titles in a row.
“It’s a really awesome feeling,” said Magnotta, who was in goal for the Blue Knights during all three of those championships. “I’m so happy playing with this team. We all worked so hard to get to this point.”
And it helped Klassner get to a point very few ever reach.
“It’s kind of a blur to me,” Klassner said. “I started crying, just because this group is just really a team a lot of people didn’t seem to think would match what last year’s team did. We had something to prove. It’s been a long time that I’ve been coaching.
“I just got excited.”
DISTRICT 2 CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIP
Wyoming Sem 2, Wyoming Area 0
Wyoming Area`0`0 — 0
Wyoming Sem`2`0 — 2
First half — 1. Sem, Emma Watchilla, 27:04; 2. Sem, Hannah Maxwell, 20:38.
Shots — WA 9; SEM 11. Saves — WA 9 (Ellie Glatz); SEM 9 (Mia Magnotta). Penalty corners — WA 9; SEM 4.