ROYERSFORD >> It’s compiling some notable numbers this fall.
But Spring-Ford isn’t dwelling on the digits as much as the overall big picture to which they’re adding up. That was very much the case Thursday, when the Rams hosted Council Rock North in the second round of the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs at Coach McNelly Stadium.
A 3-1 victory over the Indians was Spring-Ford’s 20th of the season, extending its mark to a near-perfect 20-0-1. More importantly, the Rams move one step closer to making the state tournament while assuring themselves no less than two more games in districts.
“We live to play another day,” SF head coach Tim Leyland said. “There’s not the pressure of if you lose, you go home. We’ve been there before, and we know how to navigate through it.”
Spring-Ford steered itself to a 2-1 halftime lead, then added an insurance goal little more than 11 minutes into the second half. It will next point itself toward Conestoga, the district AAAA’s fifth seed facing the fourth-seeded Pioneers Saturday at a time to be determined.
A win Saturday officially puts the Rams in states. A loss drops them into the fifth-place playback bracket with three other teams, requiring two wins to move on to the next level.
“This one is big for us,” Leyland said.
Elle Kershner ended the 0-0 affair with 8:47 left in the first half, making a crossing shot from the left side of the cage. But Rock North came back little more than three minutes later, Mia Scalamandre connecting on a set-shot situation created when Spring-Ford was called for a hand ball.
Less than three minutes passed before the Rams took the ultimate game-winning lead. Gabby Kane, centered on the CR goal, got control of the ball off a scramble and lofted the ball past Indian goalkeeper Carly Riggs 3:38 before intermission.
“It’s exciting,” Kane, who was credited with an assist on the night, said. “We want to make a run at the title. We’re a good team that plays its best … playing the way we know how.”
If there’s any pressure felt about their unbeaten run thus far, the Rams are keeping it well in check.
“We’ve forgotten about being undefeated,” Libby Andrews said. “We look at our situation as being 0-0 in districts … now 1-0. The pressure is non-existent.”
“Obviously, there are going to be nerves,” Kane said, “but we just keep cool.”
Spring-Ford effectively put the “W” in the scorebook at the 28:57 mark of the second half, when Alayna Gairo headed in a goal off a setup by Juliana Alessandroni. From there, the Rams kept Rock North at bay, leaving goalkeeper Amanda Byrd to make no more than three saves to secure the victory.
“You’ve got to be in the right position,” Gairo said in explaining the challenge of heading a goal. “I had one like that against Perkiomen Valley. When the ball is in the air, you’ve got to get it in with something.”
Though it kept the play on the Indians’ end of the field, the Rams watched Riggs (six saves) thwart a number of their drives with timely stops.
“They (Rock North) are definitely good,” Kane said. “They play hard, and their goalkeeper was making good saves.”
Leyland also noted two other CR players were challenging the Rams in the game.
“We tried to keep the balls away from their center back,” he said. “We didn’t want to let number 37 (Kayla Robinson) turn back on us, and number two (Becca Margolis) found ways to beat us.”
At the same time, Spring-Ford used the Indians’ goal to inspire their winning run the rest of the way.
“We had more urgency after the hand ball,” he said. “Within five (minutes), we were able to go back in front 2-1. After we got beat, we fought to get back on top.”
NOTES >> The game was pocked by intermittent rain showers, though they effectively had passed by the end. “It’s extremely hard,” Andrews said of the challenge of playing on artificial turf. “The ball bounces and slides. This was our first game in the rain, but we made it work.” … Leyland, on the situation of a team figuring out its next round: “This time of year, it’s a struggle,” he said. “You win Thursday, but then you don’t know where and when you’re going.” … Rock North closed out its season with a 10-6 record. The Indians had placed fourth in the Suburban One League’s National Division during the regular season.
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