On the eve of the fall’s 2016 regular season early in September, the Upper Perkiomen field hockey team received a visit from two-time Olympian Julia Reinprecht.
While practicing with the team, Reinprecht went over various drills, including one she called the “Skittle drill,” during which players would shoot an angled shot from just inside the circle aiming for the inside part of the cage. Any player who was able to angle one and clank it off the side was supposed to receive a bag of Skittles as a prize.
At this point in the season, is the Tribe tasting the rainbow?
“We’re super excited,” said Abriana Gatto of Upper Perk’s first berth in the PAC Final since 2013. “The whole school is getting pumped up.”
Upper Perk will be up against a tall task Thursday night back at Tribe Stadium — playing host to a defending champion Owen J. Roberts team fresh off a 1-0 win over Spring-Ford.
Owen J. and Upper Perk last squared off during the 2015 PAC semifinals where OJR posted a 4-0 win.
“We would love to defend our title and keep the tradition,” said OJR senior midfielder Sarah Garritano. “(We want to) give our seniors one last PAC championship.”
Upper Perkiomen finished 10-0 in the PAC’s Frontier Division (17-2 overall) en route to claiming the conference’s No. 1 seed.
OJR finished 7-2-1 in the Liberty Division (13-5-1 overall) — using tie-break criteria to take the division’s top seed and the conference’s No. 2 spot.
“I am expecting them to come out very hard from the beginning,” said Gatto of OJR. “They are a somewhat younger team with lots of skill and they finish a lot on corners.”
Although the two teams didn’t face one another during the regular season, both built up quite impressive resumes in cross-divisional play.
Playoffs included, Upper Perk finished 3-1 against the Liberty Division, their lone loss in overtime against Methacton. In those four games, the Tribe held a 19-4 scoring advantage with two shutouts.
Owen J. Roberts finished 3-0 with three shutouts against Frontier Division opponents. The Wildcats held a 23-0 scoring advantage in those three games.
Born to Run
Dating back to a 9-2 loss against Villa Maria earlier this month, the Tribe is in the midst of a six-game winning-streak with four shutouts. Upper Perk opened the season on a 10-game winning streak.
Upper Perk has outscored teams 128-20 on the season. Among the area’s goal-scoring leaders, Gatto tops the charts with 37 goals and nine assists while Hope Flack sits at third with 20 goals and 20 assists. In all, the Tribe holds five of the top 12 spots, with Liz Fox (14 goals, 12 assists) and Kaylie Siwy (13 goals, three assists) sitting at seventh and eighth, respectively.
Kathryn Lehman has 11 goals and seven helpers, which included a goal along with AiYi Young in the 2-0 PAC semifinal win over Methacton Tuesday.
For Garritano, keeping the Tribe off the board could end up proving all the difference.
“We know they have a couple of the top scorers,” she said. “We will be looking to play tough defense all over the field and capitalizing when we get the ball in the circle.”
Leanne Faust leads the Wildcats with 17 goals scored and five assists for the No. 6 spot in the area’s scoring leaders. She scored the game’s lone goal with 2:38 to lift OJR past Spring-Ford Tuesday. Garritano follows close behind with 12 scores and eight assists on the year.
On the season, Upper Perk finished 9-1 in games where Gatto scored multiple goals. Their lone loss came was the aforementioned tilt against Methacton during the regular season to end their unbeaten start. Her best scoring performance was a six-goal showing during an early season win over Pottsgrove.
Upper Perkiomen’s offensive weapons prove to be just too much for Owen J. Roberts. The Tribe takes their first conference title in three seasons. … Upper Perkiomen 3, Owen J. Roberts 2.