BUCKTOWN >> Owen J. Roberts head coach Amy Hoffman put it pretty perfectly.
When talking about Natalie Fuertsch, who was sidelined with a hip injury nearly all of the regular season, Hoffman said, “Natalie missed the meat and potatoes of our season.”
Well, Fuertsch is back. And on Thursday night she had herself plenty of helpings.
The sophomore scored twice, helping Owen J. Roberts lock up the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division championship with a 3-2 win over Spring-Ford on the Wildcats’ Senior Night.
“It’s felt amazing to be able to go back out there and play again,” said Fuertsch, who made her return to action just a week prior against Boyertown. “I didn’t get to play in the last Spring-Ford game, so coming out here and getting to play in this one was great. Even though it’s been a short regular season for me, this was a great way to end it.”
“Natalie is a competitor,” said Hoffman. “Even while she was out, she was still at every practice, every game. When she’s out there, she makes sure that she makes a difference for us any way she can.”
With the win, Owen J. Roberts (7-2-1 Liberty Division; 11-4-1 overall) locks up the No. 2 seed in next week’s PAC Final Four based on head-to-head matchups with the Rams and Methacton. Spring-Ford (7-2-1; 12-5-1) lands as the No. 3 seed, primed for a third matchup with OJR.
Top-seeded Upper Perkiomen (10-0; 15-2 overall) will be the Frontier Division’s lone representative and play host to No. 4 seeded Methacton (7-2-1; 13-2-1).
Methacton earns the fourth seed based on criteria No. 3. — head-to-head vs. the Liberty Division Ladder (top-seeded OJR).
Fuertsch opened up the scoring seven minutes in, knocking her own rebound past the Spring-Ford keeper. Then, just over nine minutes into the second half, she scored her second off a feed from senior Maddie Parr to cap a corner try and gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
Maddi Koury scored the game-winner with 8:46 left, clanking in a rebound on another Wildcat corner try.
On the night, OJR held a 6-3 corner advantage, and out-shot Spring-Ford 9-7.
“This was a great game … watching both teams play, you could see how much both teams wanted this one,” said Spring-Ford head coach Jennie Anderson.
Ram senior Lexie Nugent had a hand in both of her team’s goals. Less than two minutes after Fuertsch’s opening goal, Nugent responded, knocking one out of the air and into the cage to even it back up. She also posted an assist on Katelyn Crist’s score with 13 minutes remaining.
OJR controlled possession for most of the first 10 minutes, with Spring-Ford unable to get the ball into the scoring-circle until about seven minutes in.
“We weren’t great defensively in-between the 25’s and we were a little loose in the beginning of game,” said Anderson. “We’ve got to fix those things for next week.”
Both teams will clearly remain hungry leading up to Tuesday’s playoff matchup. Only one, though, will be able to join in the feast that is the PAC Championship.
Defend the Turf
Aside from her two goals, one of Fuertsch’s biggest contributions came late on the defensive end.
With time expired and the Rams granted one final corner try, Nugent secured the ball at the top of the circle. She charged toward net, making two OJR defenders miss, before a lurking Fuertsch snuck up and knocked the ball out of the circle to end it.
Thursday’s result moves Owen J. Roberts to 7-1 against Spring-Ford since the 2013 season. The Wildcats’ lone loss came earlier this season, a 2-1 tilt.
On The Bright Side
The Rams last made it to the PAC Final Four during the 2012 season. They capped that season with the program’s second league title, a 3-1 win over Upper Perkiomen.