PHOENIXVILLE – In its District 1 Class AAA championship battle with No 3 seed Penncrest, top- seeded Villa Joseph Marie (VJM) waited a while to get its offense cranked up.
Once the Jems got going however, they were hard to stop, on their way to their sixth consecutive District 1 championship in a 4-1 triumph over the Lions.
“After we score a goal, we always pick up the intensity and just work as a team,” said VJM senior Eva Ruppersberger. “We always try to score more.”
Using just its second corner kick of the contest, Villa Jo (18-1-1) took full advantage of the opportunity.
Jems senior Shannon Coleman broke through the ice when she booted a rebound of a header by junior Erica Behr off a corner kick by senior Eva Ruppersberger in the 33rd minute. Lions sophomore goalkeeper Bryn McLaughlin made the initial save but couldn’t hang onto the rebound. Shooting from a wide angle only a couple of feet in front of the right side post, Coleman jammed the ball into the far left-hand side of the net.
“We’re always taught to follow the shot,” said Ruppersberger. “Shannon was there to put it in.”
With time winding down in the first half, Ruppersberger took a feed from sophomore Sam Agnew, split the defense and blasted the ball from the 18-yard marker to the goalkeeper’s right for a 2-0 lead with 1:44 remaining in the half.
“I split the two center-defenders and I was right there to put it in,” said Ruppersberger. “I just kept my composure and found a corner.”
Twelve minutes into the second half, Penncrest (14-2-3) answered with a goal by freshman Julia Mullaney, who top-shelfed a ball from the left side into the right-hand corner of the Villa Jo net.
Minutes later, sophomore Logan Morris very nearly caught up to a crossing pass that came perilously close to the Jems’ goal crease. Midway through the second half, senior Olivia Mancarella crushed a shot from the 18 that nearly locked the sides at two. However, Villa Jo senior keeper Olivia Eife was up to the task, sliding to her right to make the key save.
“We were kind of lucky to dodge a couple bullets at that point,” admitted Jems head coach Rich Finneyfrock. “Right there, it was anybody’s game.”
“Penncrest is a good team,” added Ruppersberger. “We knew if they scored, they had the intensity to come back.”
A minute later, however, Villa was on the scoreboard again. This time, it was leading scorer Murphy Agnew taking a through ball sent over the top by junior Madeline Jimenez and popping it over the keeper for a 3-1 Jems’ lead with 16:18 to go in the contest.
A striker who now has 24 goals on the season and 87 in her career, Agnew helped lead her Yardley Makefield Soccer (YMS) Premier Xplosion team to a U17 US Youth Soccer National Championship last summer.
She is headed to Harvard. Classmate Casey Kilchrist is going to LaSalle.
Headed to Arcadia University, Ruppersberger put the icing on the cake in this game when she tallied her second goal of the contest with 33 seconds remaining.
Both of these teams are headed to states, set to begin Tuesday. Penncrest opens against District 3 champion Manheim Central. The Jems will face District 3 fourth-place finisher East Pennsboro.
Villa Jo defeated ninth-seeded Mount Saint Joseph and No. 4 Villa Marie to reach the championship game. Penncrest topped sixth seeded Pope John Paul II and No. 10 Gwynedd Mercy to reach the title tilt.
Junior Tara Higgins, led the Lions in scoring this season with nine goals. She tallied the goal in double overtime that sent Penncrest to a 2-1 victory over Gwynedd Nov. 2 in the district semifinal. Senior Gia Martyn was the assists leader with 14 helpers. Penncrest posted 13 team shutouts this season.
Up to the title game, the Lions had scored 47 goals while surrendering only seven. Sophomore goalkeeper Bryn McLaughlin made a dozen saves for Penncrest in the D-1 title tilt.
DISTRICT 1-AAA CHAMPIONSHIP
Villa Joseph Marie 4, Penncrest 1
(Nov. 5 at Phoenixville)
VILLA JO MARIE 2 2 – 4
PENNCREST 0 1 – 1
First-half goals: VJM — Shannon Coleman, from Erica Behr, 33rd minute; Eva Ruppersberger, from Sam Agnew, 39th minute; P — none.
Second-half goals: VJM — Murphy Agnew, from Madeline Jimenez, 64th minute, Ruppersberger, from Miranda Behr, 80th minute; P — Julia Mullaney, unassisted, 52nd minute.
Saves: Bryn McLaughlin (P) 12, Olivia Eife (VJM) 2.
Records: Penncrest 14-2-3; Villa Jo Marie 18-1-1.