ROYERSFORD >> The Pope John Paul II girls soccer team was reeling.
The Golden Panthers looked like the runaway winners of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division nine days ago, up 3-0 and on their way to a season sweep of top rival Phoenixville. Sixty minutes later the Phantoms pulled off an improbable comeback to win 4-3 in overtime. Less than 24 hours after that another loss was on PJP’s ledger, the mental and physical residual effect lingering in a defeat to Upper Merion.
It left PJP facing a must-win matchup at home Thursday against Pottsgrove to earn the league’s last berth to the PAC Final Four. A fitting position for the Golden Panthers apparently.
“Coming from such an underdog team, we’re really making a stand for our school,” junior Elizabeth Kropp said.
“And showing that we’re a team to contend with,” junior Kayla Mesaros chimed in.
With Kropp and Mesaros at the forefront, PJP accomplished both and earned the final place into the league semifinals with a 2-0 victory over Pottsgrove.
Pope John Paul II improved to 8-2 in the PAC Frontier and 10-3 in the PAC to deny Boyertown (6-3-1, 9-3-1) a place in the PAC playoffs for the first time in the Final Four era (since 2006).
“We just stayed focused and realized the goal,” Mesaros said. “We obviously wanted to win the Frontier Division, but that didn’t happen. But to get these wins and still make it is a huge thing for our school.”
It took some resiliency to get realigned after the two division defeats to rebound with a 6-1 win over Upper Perkiomen and Thursday’s win over a solid Pottsgrove team that finished third in the Frontier (5-5 division, 6-7 PAC).
“We all know each other so well and we love playing together so it helps to come back from a loss and know what we have to get done the next day,” Mesaros said.
Mesaros, the PAC’s top scorer this season with 23 goals, earned a penalty kick in the 27th minute and converted it with ease to tip the scale in a very even first half. The Falcons may have even had the better of it with defender Hannah Phillips sticking close to a largely isolated Mesaros and Madison Thierry and Dalia Abbas impressing in the midfield.
“We had trouble the first game – we scored with only three minutes left (of a 1-0 PJP win),” Mesaros said. “We were obviously aware it wasn’t going to be an easy game but we had to get it done.”
The scale got a thunderous stomp to the PJP side five minutes into the second half when Kropp ripped a Mesaros pass on the volley. It was a 2-0 lead that was left in little doubt over the final 35 minutes with center back pairing Julia Owens and Monica Rapchinski and midfielder Kendal Piazza allowing little while Mesaros, the tireless Kropp and Carson Tracy keeping the team on the front foot.
“It was definitely an even game,” Mesaros said. “I think we put away the chance we needed to put away to start and then the second half Liz had a great goal to finish them off and we just had to defend and win it.”
NOTES >> PJP keeper Colleen Morton had four saves for the shutout. Pottsgrove goalie Erin Carroll made 11 saves. … The PAC semifinals will be held Tuesday at Owen J. Roberts. Matchups are still to be determined.
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