RED HILL >> During the postgame, Darby Stuart picked up the water cooler and motioned toward her coach.
“No!” said Owen J. Roberts head coach Amy Hoffman sternly.
“Not yet,” Stuart responded quickly.
The Wildcats took another step toward defending their Pioneer Athletic Conference title on Thursday night, making Leanne Faust’s late goal stand in a 1-0 win over Spring-Ford in the PAC Final Four opening round.
“I want another jacket, we all do,” Faust said afterward. “We were ready for this game. It was a total team game for us … start to finish.”
Owen J. Roberts will face Upper Perkiomen — a 2-0 winner over Methacton — for the PAC title on Thursday night back at Tribe Stadium.
Faust’s score came on a scrum in front of the cage with 2:38 left in regulation to cap the Wildcats’ ninth corner try.
Riley Hansen inserted it to Natalie Fuertsch. Fuertsch then dumped it into the circle where it bounced around like a pinball with Faust knocking it in once it reached her stick.
“It was kind of a blur,” she said. “It seemed like everyone got a stick on it and then went to Bridget (Guinan) on the post. Once she hit it to the center, I knew I could tip it in.”
Faust’s score served as the lone goal in a game that stood in complete contrast to both teams’ PAC regular season finale — a 3-2 OJR win last Thursday night.
OJR (7-2-1 Liberty Division; 13-5-1) dominated the possession throughout the second half, keeping it on their side of the field for the majority. The Wildcats finished with 10 corners and seven shots on goal. The Wildcat defense held the Rams (7-2-1; 12-7-1) to just two shots on goal and limited them to five corners.
Stuart and Cassie Micklesavage each came up with a save in the OJR cage to preserve the shutout.
“I think we had some nerves in the first half,” said Hoffman. “During the second half, we started to play more of what we’re used to — we got some more of our passing combinations and we started to press them more defensively. That’s what usually makes us successful.”
“It turned into a defensive game for us, especially during the second half,” said Spring-Ford head coach Jennie Anderson. “We didn’t get the ball into our half much.
“They capitalized on their opportunities and we didn’t.”
Spring-Ford keeper Lexi Ciano finished with six saves, including a huge sliding stop on Guinan during a breakaway with 11 minutes left.
Now for the fourth season in a row, Spring-Ford will be at home for the conference title clash. The Rams last won it in 2012, which was just their second title in program history.
“The girls are upset, of course,” said Anderson, “but tonight isn’t the end of our season. We’ve got districts on Monday to think about. We’ve got to use this one as motivation for next week.”
Tuesday’s result included, Owen J. Roberts is now 8-1 against Spring-Ford dating back to the 2013 season. Their lone loss was earlier this season, a 2-1 Ram win. During that stretch, the Wildcats have outscored Spring-Ford 26-6 with five shutouts to their credit.
UP To The Task
Due to the realignment and shuffle in the PAC this season, Owen J. Roberts never faced off against Upper Perk during the regular season.
Hoffman and the Wildcats pledge to treat it like any other game — even despite the stage.
“All we’ve seen are their stats and some notes on them,” said Hoffman. “We’ll take a look and see what — if anything — we need to change for Thursday. They’ve got a lot of skilled players out there. I know their forward line is pretty dangerous and their midfield line is just as strong. So we’ll have to play tough defensively and find a way to put it in the cage the way we did tonight.”