BUCKTOWN >> A visible sense of relief fell upon Owen J. Roberts head coach Joe Tornetta as Eloise Gebert charged down the field with the team up one.
Raising his arms up high as his team stormed the field, it was only then that he could celebrate a game that somehow, someway went the Wildcats way.
Kelsey Kilgallon gave Owen J. Roberts its first lead of the game with 1:33 remaining before Gebert sealed the deal on the defensive side of the ball, forcing a turnover in the waning seconds as the Wildcats battled back from a five-goal halftime deficit to down Perkiomen Valley 11-10 in the nightcap of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Girls Lacrosse semifinals Tuesday night.
“We had to play with heart,” OJR junior defender Kylie Cahill said. “At first I think we lost sight of that, but we gained it back and I’m super proud of my team for doing that. That was the key to winning this game, playing with heart, leaving everything out on the field and not letting the silly mistakes get to us.”
A quest for a three-peat will continue for OJR as the Wildcats will face Spring-Ford, a 16-9 winner over Pope John Paul II in the earlier semifinal, in the PAC final Thursday at Owen J. Roberts at 5:30 p.m.
“Lisa (Clark) had Perkiomen Valley very well prepared,” Tornetta said. “They were ready. They played a great game and under Lisa they’ve just gotten better and better as the year has gone on. If anything, my hat goes off to what they did tonight. They came out here and jumped all over us.”
Anna Koniencki was a huge reason behind the Vikings’ torrid start. The VCU commit was a major benefactor of Perk Valley’s ability to carve up the double team and relentless OJR pressure, springing for four of her game-high six goals in the first half as the team built a 6-1 lead in the opening 15 minutes before carrying a 7-2 lead into the half.
“At the half we knew we had to go out and play as hard as we could,” Gebert said. “We couldn’t let up. We had to push, outwork them, get those draw controls and every groundball that came to us.”
The Wildcats did just that.
Down 10-6 following a Kat Kelley free position goal with 9:50 remaining, OJR took control of the final 10 minutes. Sophia Murray kick-started the comeback with a race toward goal and a scintillating finish to make it 10-7 with 9:29 left before Anna Dempsey netted a free position goal three minutes later to cut the lead to two. Anna Lavelle then found success on a free position try with 4:13 left to cut it to 10-9 before Gebert netted the equalizer with a shot from a tight angle that beat the PV goalkeeper with 3:02 remaining.
Kilgallon capped it with a with a run across the face of goal before sniping one into the back of the net to make it 11-10 with 1:33 left.
Following a PV draw control, its first in five tries, Gebert and Sydney Drumheller converged on the PV attack to force a turnover, Gebert taking possession and racing down the field to kill the clock and cap the comeback.
“This showed the character of these kids,” Tornetta said. “They could have easily rolled over. We were down three, we were down four. Then when we got it to two, you could just see the energy changing at that point. We got the momentum at the right time of the game.”
Dempsey and Gebert finished with hat tricks in the win. Lavelle added two goals in the win with Sophia Murray finishing with a team-best five draw controls. Gebert finished with four draws and Cahill with three.
OJR’s Mia Tornetta and PV’s Devon Fleischmann had great games in net, both stopping eight shots.
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In the other PAC semifinal, Camryn Jones and Cassie Marte each finished with four goals and two assists as the Rams made easy work of the Golden Panthers, building a 10-3 lead through the opening 22 minutes.
Michaela Haney added a hat trick with Liv Yeagle adding two goals and Kamille Ward posting seven saves for a Rams squad that hasn’t won a PAC Championship since the 1991 season.
“Our senior class has really wanted this for a while and we’ve been practicing really hard and coming out focused,” Jones said. “This is the final step for us, so we’re excited to be in this position.”
“We know our team has a lot of talent and we can do it,” Marte added. “We just need to keep working hard and staying focused.”
PJP was led by a four-goal game from Grace Cobaugh. However, the Frontier Division champs found it tough to stay in it with the Rams, never trailing by less than six after the first half.
Charlotte Williamson made nine saves in the loss.