BUCKTOWN >> Make no mistake about it.
This season’s Owen J. Roberts team took plenty away from being a part of last year’s PIAA state playoff run. That said, this season’s crop of players have their hearts set on creating a new identity for themselves.
Just a few days removed from capturing their second consecutive Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, the Wildcats got their District 1-AAA playoff run started with a 2-1 win over Pennsbury on Monday night.
With the win, the No. 11 seeded Wildcats advance to the second round, where they’ll face No. 6 Central Bucks East on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.
“We had such an experienced team last year who had been playing together for such a long time,” said junior captain Sarah Garritano, who scored what stood as the game-winner 11 minutes into the second half. “This season, we’re a younger team that’s really stepped it up, especially late in the season.
“Last year’s team really pushed us to where we are now. We just want to see how far it can us.”
Senior Maddie Parr explains, last year’s team laid the groundwork. Now it’s up to this year’s team to take it a step further.
“It’s a little bit of both,” she said. “We want to follow in the footsteps of last year’s team, but then keep going on from there. They set the bar pretty high, though. We know it won’t be easy.”
The Wildcats graduated eight starters from last year’s stacked program — which had featured four Division I players — following their run to the PIAA-AAA playoffs. This year’s team boasts only three seniors, but faces no shortage on talent.
That was on display Monday, as OJR held a 14-1 advantage in corners and posted 12 shots on goal while holding Pennsbury to just one.
Parr’s game-opening goal served as the kick-start the Wildcats needed — a blast off the wood that’s likely still echoing through the hills of Bucktown.
“That was the start we were looking for,” said Parr. “At PAC’s, we were shut out during the first half and needed to dig out of that hole during the second half. We wanted to get on the board early on and get things going from there.”
The Vikings were quick to respond, though.
Just over a minute later, Samie Hackman took it all the way on a breakaway to make Pennsbury’s first trip into the scoring circle a successful one and even it up at 1-1.
“We told them no regrets, it could be one and done so leave it all,” said Pennsbury head coach Jamie Parell. “It was definitely a duel back and forth until the very end. I really can’t take anything negative away from this game. Our girls played really well.”
Pennsbury keeper Michelle Deodatti was busy throughout in the cage where she finished with nine saves — including eight in the second half as OJR’s offense really started to get into rhythm.
Garritano’s game-deciding goal came hot off the stick of Bridget Guinan on the Wildcats’ sixth corner try of the half.
“We were a bit too slow in the first half,” said OJR head coach Amy Hoffman. “Hopefully on Wednesday, we can put together two good halves. We’d like to get out there earlier and get our offense going early on.”
Making The Grade
Pennsbury finds itself in a similar situation as their hosts.
Boasting just one senior on the roster — captain Amelia Sharp — the Vikings will return a crop of experienced players over the course of the next few seasons.
“Basically, our whole team will be back for us next season,” said Parell, “which is awesome. The girls are getting used to playing with one another. It’s definitely exciting the future of our program.”
Owen J. Roberts opened its District 1-AAA playoff run with a 7-2 win over Pennsbury last season. Of the Wildcats’ seven goals scored in the game, not one player remains on this season’s lineup card.