Villa Jo Marie senior Murphy Agnew (14) splits the defense in Jems’ 3-0 win over East Pennsboro Nov. 8 in a District 1-AAA first round matchup at Council Rock North. (John Gleeson – 21st-Century Media)
HERSHEY – With time winding down on Villa Joseph Marie’s 2016 soccer season and the sun setting on the careers of 11 seniors including leading scorer Murphy Agnew, the Jems – trailing District 7 champion Moon Area, 2-1 – pressed for the goal that would give them only a chance at finishing their season with a win.
“We still had hope; that’s all I can say,” said Agnew. “We had one more goal left to score; we still had hope right down to the final seconds.
“We were pushing to tie it up right down to the last second.”
Isabella Hill, just one of that group of seniors that included Agnew, pushed a crossing pass through the Tigers’ goalmouth that VJM junior Megan O’Neill got her head on, but alas, the ensuing shot by the 11th-grader was over the net.
With 1:45 left in regulation, VJM senior backfielder Shannon Coleman desperately tried to connect her throw-in from 25 yards out on the left flank with a Villa attacker in the corner and that was not to be.
With a single minute remaining, O’Neill threatened again on the left side but was met with resistance from one of Moon’s seniors, Izzy Engel.
With 40 seconds left in the PIAA final Nov. 18 at Hersheypark Stadium, Hill looped a shot in on MA goalkeeper Madison Sleva that the sophomore devoured.
And just like that, it was all over. Moon Area, a team that was not even in the state tournament last year, was this year’s PIAA Class AAA champion.
Agnew – who scored the Jems’ only goal with 18:33 remaining – said that Villa Jo, winners of the 2014 Class AA Championship, never lost track of its goal in its third straight trip to the PIAA finals, this one, a 2-1 loss to Moon Area and the second year in a row VJM left Hersheypark Stadium on the short side of a one-goal battle.
“Hope is such a powerful motivator. It’s our last game of the season; it’s the last game ever for a bunch of the starters on the field,” explained Agnew, who is headed to Harvard. “We’re seniors so we just wanted to give it our all.”
Moon Area freshman Chloe Kuminkoski put the WPIAL Champion Tigers on the board early when she headed a corner kick from the left side by junior Emily Orr.
“Izzy (Engel) was supposed to be the one getting it and I was supposed to be going back post,” said Kuminkoski after the game. “But because it was a little bit longer field, I knew I had to stay back a bit. So I just went in and tried my best to get my head in on it.”
While the Jems managed to keep Tigers’ leading scorer Delaney Snyder off the scoreboard, they could not keep the junior forward who is headed to Miami of Ohio from affecting the outcome of the title tilt. With less than eight and 1/2 minutes to go in the first half, Snyder dribbled the ball across the VJM goalmouth before crashing down in front of Villa Jo keeper Olivia Eife.
Snyder picked herself up off the turf with her arms spread wide, begging for the call that her team eventually got. Problem was no one saw what Villa defender brought the opposing player down. A collision with the keeper certainly wouldn’t warrant a PK.
“A lot of people on our team said they didn’t think it was a penalty kick but we’re not really sure what happened,” said VJM senior Casey Kilchrist. “It’s like ‘he said, she said,’ at this point.”
Moon Area senior Emma Thomas got a hold of the ensuing penalty kick, making no mistake when she put the winning goal on the top shelf, just a tad bit to the left of Eife.
While Agnew scored the game’s only goal for the six time District 1 champs, the shot that had the chance to change the landscape, heck, the whole personality of this duel was one that would not show up on the score sheet. Less than five minutes into the second half, junior Miranda Behr blasted a point-blank shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and out of harm’s way.
A goal that quick after the break surely had the power to tilt the axis onto the Jems’ side of the field.
“I think if we would have put that one in, I think it would have been a different game,” said Agnew, who finished with 91 goals in her career and 28 for this season.
“I think it would have given us that much more time to make them nervous and get on their backs and keep working to get the (game-tying) goal.”
Again, it was not to be.
Villa Jo finally broke through when Agnew took a feed from younger sister Samantha and blasted a ball into the back of the net with 18:33 to go in regulation. It’s a memory Murphy will carry with her, probably forever.
“I’ve really loved playing with her the past few years,” said Murphy, of competing alongside her sister. “And I loved the goal because it was kind of like our last hurrah.”
And with that, the senior turned and exited the playing field, the last time she would ever share the pitch with sister Sam.
In addition to Murphy Agnew, Hill, Eife, Coleman and Kilchrist, who is headed to LaSalle, Villa says goodbye to Maria Juarez, Eva Ruppersberger, Erin Kueny, Lea Travagline, Alana Rago, and Alexis Morace.
Murphy Agnew was forced to exit the battle in the 26th minute of the second half after a collision with a Moon defender left her with a bloody nose. She re-entered the duel with seven and 1/2 minutes remaining in a desperate last-ditch attempt to obtain the equalizer that would never come.
PIAA Class AAA Championship
Moon Area 2, Villa Joseph Marie 1
(Nov. 18 at Hersheypark Stadium)
MOON AREA 1 1 – 2
VILLA JO MARIE 0 1 – 1
FIRST-HALF GOALS: MA — Chloe Kuminkoski, from Emily Orr, sixth minute, Emma Thomas, penalty kick, 32nd minute; VJM — none.
SECOND-HALF GOALS: VJM — Murphy Agnew, from Samantha Agnew, 62nd minute; MA — none.