PHOENIXVILLE >> While its one-goal lead slipped away with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the Phoenixville field hockey team found a way.
Sophomore forward Ameerah Green scored with 5:29 remaining in the first 15-minute overtime period to propel the host Phantoms to a 2-1 victory over Octorara in the first round of the District 1-AA playoffs at Washington Field.
The 14th-seeded Phantoms, representing the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division, moved on and will travel to play third-seeded West Chester Henderson in the second round Wednesday at a time to be determined.
“It’s good to win our first district game,” said Green. “We’re happy to win it. We got the ball up the field a lot.”
The 19th-seeded Braves, from the Ches-Mont League American Division, saw their season come to a close with a 7-11 record. Phoenixville, which won its fourth straight contest, improved to 10-8-1 overall.
Freshman Cassidy Stevens gave Phoenixville a 1-0 lead with a backhand shot off a strong Phantom rush with 15:42 left in the first half.
Octorara came on strong in the second half and kept constant pressure at the Phoenixville end of the field. Finally, with 3:56 showing, junior midfielder Paige Lowry scored for the Braves to tie the score at 1.
Phoenixville is a young squad with just two seniors (Katie Sullivan, Erica Sposato). It is also a Phantom team which has improved immeasurably since the beginning of the season under first-year head coach JaJa Kentwell.
Sophomore midfielder Gabby Herschell, also a returning varsity player, exhibited her typical strong game in the middle that helped establish offensive and defensive tactics for Phoenixville. Herschell’s stickwork helped set up Green’s game-winning goal at the opposite end of the field. Herschel passed to Sposato, who sent the ball back to Herschell. Herschell then passed it to Green on the outside right segment of the field.
Green used her speed and quickness to maneuver past the Braves’ defenders to rush the ball toward the Octorara cage.
“I pulled right and shot it into goal,” said Green.
“It’s good to win with the sophomores,” said Herschell. “We have improved so much from the beginning of the season to now with JaJa as coach. It’s our passing – instead of holding the ball, we work as a team. Our team connects.”
Octorara coach Lauren Morlando, who is in her second season with the Braves, said she made some adjustments that helped Octorara crank up their play a notch in the second half.
“We changed our formation,” said Morlando. “Instead of having a sweep, we went with a high forward to create more offense.”
The methods helped create four penalty corner opportunities and a goal during the second half after a first half in which the Braves little.
Morlando has returned home to coach at her alma mater Octorara after playing four years of collegiate field hockey at Juniata. The Braves graduate seven seniors but they will also be returning a solid group of sophomore and junior players.
Phoenixville continued to show improvement in Kentwell’s debut season.
“We don’t have one player who is supposed to be our star. So we pass the ball and try to be in the right position to pass the ball,” Kentwell said. “We have improved a lot, but we still have things to work on. Props to their work ethic.
“They have been efficient with the amount of time we have to work with them. We have had a very good season with organization. They’ve been on top of it.”
NOTES >> Phoenixville junior goalkeeper Tyler Hall made three saves while Octorara junior goalie Izzy Heagy made five saves. … Octorara led in corners, 9-5. … Herschell inserts on the Phantoms’ corners, and junior midfielder Mackie Sheeler does likewise for the Braves. … Senior captains Emma Carr and Tabby Boohar helped anchor the Octorara defense along with junior Megan Priddy. The other tri-captain is senior forward Haley Arnsberger. … Sophomore Kyra Trafford, junior Becca Lewis, Sullivan and sophomore Hannah Syrek had some good stops and clearing hits for the Phantoms.