PHOENIXVILLE >> Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen put on a showing Tuesday night that had all the components a district playoff game is supposed to have.
There were outstanding individual plays across the board by both sides in a first-round game at Washington Field.
The extreme defensive tussle eventually resulted in a 1-0 Phoenixville District 1-AAA first-round playoff victory as the Phantoms made Dakota Graham’s first-half goal stand up for a victory over the Indians, a Pioneer Athletic Conference rival, in the third meeting this season between the Frontier Division rivals.
Graham’s goal in the seventh minute of action elevated fifth-seeded Phoenixville into a second-round contest against fourth-seeded Villa Maria Academy Thursday afternoon in Malvern at 3:30 p.m.
The Phantoms claimed all three decisions against the Indians this fall, with all three games resulting in one-goal margins. The scores were 3-2, 2-1 and 1-0, all in favor of Phoenixville.
“That was the fun part, but it is hard to beat a team three times,” said Phoenixville senior midfielder Julia Brown. “We played really well three times.”
The two squads pressured each other from end line to end line throughout. Phoenixville goalie Hannah Sands (four saves) recorded the shutout with plenty of help from the defensive back line of senior Sophia Kopko and three freshmen in Lily White, Maddie White and Marlee Brown as well as the Phantoms’ fine cast of midfielders and forwards, too.
Phoenixville’s six seniors, including a core group of four which has produced a school-record 52 victories in the past four seasons under head coach Tim Raub, played their final home game at Washington Field. But the victory did not come without a stiff fight from the 12th-seeded Indians, whose starting lineup included seven seniors and one sophomore.
“It’s still really sad,” Brown said of the last home game. “It would have been so sad if we lost.”
“It was a fun game,” said Phoenixville senior Kaitlyn Casiano. “It is better to have the early lead than to play from behind and down and be successful. You don’t want them to get two goals. But one goal is not a very good lead. They can get two goals. They have always been a very good team to come back on us.
“We have played four years on this field. We didn’t want to lose our last game on this field. “I am excited (about districts). This is our last run in districts. We want to go as far as we can.”
Phoeniville was credited with eight shots on goal to four by Upper Perkiomen. Graham had five shots while, single-season record-setting goal-scorer sophomore Gabrielle Perrotto had two and Brown had one. The Tribe got two shots from Jessie Fisher and one each from Taylor Kearney and Casey Smoll.
Veteran Upper Perkiomen head coach Mike Freed was quick to highlight a splendid performance by senior goalkeeper Rachel Morelli, who collected seven saves and made several more stops that were at a distance far upfield from the crease and net.
“Rachel played a tremendous game in goal,” said Freed. “She made a lot of good decisions tonight. She was really on tonight and into the flow of the game.”
Morelli was aided by some fine play by center backs Emma Long and Megan Wismer as well as midfielder Kayleigh Durning and defender Lauren Weeks.
“We struggle with some teams with speed,” said Freed. “But they did a great job against Gabby tonight. They just worked their butts off. We have heart because we aren’t very deep. In our case, a lot of them are coming back.
“Last year we did not even make districts. This year was a stepping stone going into next season. When your team plays well and the other team just beats us, you give them credit. We can’t complain. We had effort out there. Our kids gave it their all tonight.”
Raub was also satisfied and pleased to see his team move on in districts after such a well-played game.
“They (Indians) played so well in the second half,” said Raub. “Mike and his staff are such an organized team. They had a week to scout since they were not in PAC play.”
Raub cited Freed and his vast coaching experience that included stops at Perkiomen Valley and Quakertown before venturing to Upper Perkiomen. It is a career that has produced nearly 200 coaching victories.
Raub felt his team played “fantastic” during the first half of 40 minutes of action before the Tribe came back during the second half.
“Upper Perk came out strong and played like the team that was winning,” said Raub. “They put it to us.”
NOTES >> Phoenixville also got some strong showings from Leeza Galli and Mary Michaud while protecting its slim lead in the second half. … Phantoms led in corner kicks, 2-1.
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