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Villa Joseph Marie girls soccer aiming high in PIAA Tournament (PHOTO GALLERY)

Villa Jo Marie senior Murphy Agnew’s (14) two goals gave the Jems an early lead in 3-0 win over East Pennsboro in the opening round of the PIAA girls soccer tournament Nov. 8 at Council Rock North. (John Gleeson – 21st-Century Media)

Winning a district title often leads to euphoria for a scholastic soccer team. For Villa Jo Marie, it’s business as usual. On Nov. 5, the Jems took care of matters by defeating Penncrest 4-1to capture the PIAA Class AAA district title.

The win was not only the Jems’ sixth district title in as many years, it marked the start of another trek down the Keystone Yellow Brick Road. Dating back to 1986, Villa has appeared in 13 state championship games and won nine of them. Their last title came in 2014 when they defeated Villa Maria of Erie by a 1-0 score. Last year, Villa Marie reversed the outcome, beating the Jems by a 1-0 margin.

Key to Villa’s success over the years is the presence of many talented and selfless players. This season is no exception. Leading the Jems is one of Bucks County’s most prolific scorers Murphy Agnew. Twice named to the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches All State Team, the Harvard bound senior entered the 2016 campaign with 63 career goals. She has already added 26 more tallies to that mark.

For Murphy, playing for Villa Jo is more than just an extracurricular activity. It is a genuine love. “”I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences in my soccer career. I think our team is so special. There are so many traditions that are carried on by each class. We have our cheering on the sidelines, different prayers we do, and heart stickers we wear on our sports bras every game. There are so many traditions I love about Villa.”

Part of the beloved tradition is winning big games. The Jems took on the number 4 seed from District Three, East Pennsboro, in the opening round of the state playoffs. The Panthers, who sported an impressive 19-2 record, were relatively unknown to Murphy and her teammates.

“We had never had any personal experience playing against them because they were from a different district. But we did research them a little bit. We read some articles of their season this year. We knew who their top scorers were and which players to watch. We do that for every game. We knew they had a good girl number 10 (Hannah Young) on ball who had good skills in the midfield. We made sure to be aware of her.”

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The game started rather conservatively with both teams sizing each other up. “In the beginning we had more of a defensive mind to feel them out and see what they would come at us with before letting the guns blaze full force forward.”

Not surprisingly Murphy fired the first scoring shot when she sped through the Pennsboro defense to tally with 19:35 gone off the clock. “I don’t know where I got the ball. No one was really around me. I had Eva Ruppersberger to my right as I neared the 18. I dribbled past a player and tried to slip the ball by a defender to Eva. The girl got a foot on it to stop the pass and it landed right back in my path and I just hit it as hard as I could into the right corner.”

Five minutes later Murphy would reload and fire off her second goal scoring shot. “It was kind of a bouncing ball and the girl had her back to me. She was focused on the ball and didn’t really know where I was. I used that element of surprise to my advantage and hit it from outside the 18.”

At halftime Villa head coach Rich Finneyfrock called upon veteran savvy and warned the Jems not to relax. “We didn’t make any adjustments but our coach was very clear and said the game wasn’t over yet. He wanted us to be focused and play as if it was 0-0. He didn’t want us to be complacent.”

The Villa players heeded their coach’s advice. They carried their intensity into the second half and iced the victory when Mirada Behr took Casey Kilchrist’s deflected shot and booted it by the Panther goal keeper.

The 3-0 win sets up a quarter final match-up with Northern York and moves the Jems one step closer to their ultimate goal. “I was so proud of my teammates and happy. We all said we don’t want to think ahead but we have two more games to get back to Hersey which is where we want to be.”

The Jems know that Norther York will be a most worthy opponent. “We played them last year in the first round of states. It was really bad conditions and rainy. We ended up tying and going to PK’s. We remember that they were a really tough team.”

No matter how tough the opponent the Jems will get down to business. That’s a big part of their winning tradition.

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