East Whiteland – When Westtown School defeated Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 1-0, in the PAISAA girls’ soccer championship final Wednesday evening at Immaculata University, it was fitting that the game’s lone goal was scored by sophomore midfielder Relly Ladner.
“Relly’s been on fire [scoring] since we moved her to outside right mid [in the post-season],” said Westtown co-head coach Paul Lehmann. “We switched from a 4-5-1 during the regular season to more of a 3-5-2 in the post-season, and it paid off.”
To view a photo gallery of the Westtown-Springside Chestnut Hill PAISAA girls’ soccer championship final click here
Westtown (15-6), entering the PAISAA tournament as the No. 7 seed, defeated second seed Episcopal Academy 3-1 in the quarterfinals, then prevailed against No. 3 seed Baldwin School, 5-0, in the semifinal to reach the finals against fifth seeded Springside.
“We’re the first girls’ team at Westtown to win a state title,” said Lehmann. “Coming on the heels of the first boys’ team at Westtown to win a state title [Westtown boys basketball team, last winter], this makes it pretty special.”
Ladner, a Dartmouth commit, scored the game-winner with 23:02 left, dribbling down the right side of the field, and working her way past the goalie for a successful shot.
“When I hit the shot, I looked up, and I saw it hit the post and go in,” said Ladner. “It felt unreal.”
Lehmann said, “I definitely think [Ladner’s] goal turned the momentum in our favor. Seeing Relly and Sara [sophomore forward Sara Oswald] playing so hard out there tonight to make something happen, it was nice to see the team rewarded for their efforts.”
Oswald, who has scored 25 goals this season, smiled and said, “When the game ended, it felt like a complete relief. This has been the longest season of our lives – we had some injuries [earlier] to overcome, and we played so many games this season.”
Although Westtown was the lower seed and technically the away team, Wednesday night’s contest almost felt like a home game for the Moose, since Immaculata’s Draper Walsh Stadium was just a short drive from Westtown. A sizable contingent of Westtown fans (many of them students) made plenty of noise during the contest, and the youths stormed the field when the game was over. On the sidelines after the game, a large crowd of Westtown fans snapped photos of the newly-crowned PAISAA champion players and coaches.
Westtown sophomore goalie Natalie Neumann, a Lafayette commit who made half-a-dozen saves to preserve the 1-0 win, said, “It was amazing seeing how many fans came out tonight to support us.”
Ladner, Oswald and Neumann play together on the same club team (Penn Fusion) and are looking forward to two more years of winning together at Westtown.
“We have a young team, with a lot of players coming back next year,” said Oswald.
Lehmann noted, “We started seven freshmen and sophomores this year. And junior Val Thompson really has anchored the back line for us this season. Our back four really held [Springside Chestnut Hill] tonight – Val Thompson, [freshman defender] Bridget Fitzpatrick, [sophomore defender] Maddie Boctor and [freshman defender] Natalia Santangelo. Our game plan was to shut down Springside’s Number 2 [Tennessee-bound junior forward Emily McNesby], and we did a great job with that, in particular Natalia.
“And our three starting seniors, [midfielder/forward] Marite Horton, [midfielder] Abby Domenick and [defender/midfielder] Stephanie Graziani-Neuburger, did a great job for us, too, this season. Marite did a fantastic job of settling down the middle.”
Wednesday evening, the Moose defeated a gritty Springside Chestnut Hill squad that had edged No. 1 seed Penn Charter 1-0 in the PAISAA semifinal to advance to the championship game.
“I’m very proud of my team,” said Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Maria DeGeorge Kosmin. “At the beginning of the season, I don’t think anyone expected us to be here [in the championship final]. We had a rough middle of the season with injuries, but we overcame a lot to get this far. Westtown is a very talented team.”