During pregame, Spring-Ford girls soccer coach Tim Leyland downplayed the significance of Friday’s match with Owen J. Roberts.
“It’s only September,” the fourth-year coach repeated.
Leyland, however, is blessed to have a team that knows no early-season form.
Nor does Owen J. Roberts, which made for an outstanding match in the rematch of last year’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game.
But like last year and the rest of recent history, Spring-Ford kept the edge as the Rams prevailed over the Wildcats, 4-3, at Coach McNelly Stadium.
Reigning PAC champion Spring-Ford (5-0) looked like a well-oiled machine while getting goals from Allie Christman, Ella Curry, Alayna Gairo and Kelly Franz with assists coming from Mac Mitchell, Christman, Devin Rawley and Curry.
Owen J. Roberts, which took its first defeat (4-1), got goals from Julia Dalton and Kylie Cahill (both assisted by Caroline Thompson) and Sarah Kopec.
Freshman Kopec’s goal on a rebound with two minutes left was the one the Rams were left thinking about in the postgame.
“It was a good performance but at the end I think we needed to keep pushing, that the intensity needed to be high the entire game,” midfielder Christman said. “I think it dropped off at the end a little and the score is the result.”
With their possession-oriented, quick-passing style, Spring-Ford, which went 22-2-1 and reached the fifth-place game in District 1-AAAA last season, isn’t interested in being charitable to the opposition.
“It’s our goal to keep the ball the entire game and we want to combine in the midfield, not just kick it,” senior holding midfielder Laura Fazzini said. “Our team plays really unselfishly. It’s not about who finishes it in the end, just as long as someone does.”
Christman started the trend just three minutes in with an outside foot shot from Mitchell’s header from a free kick near the corner flag. But Dalton leveled it 1-1 just 17 seconds later when Thompson carried the ball down the left and crossed centrally to a late-arriving Dalton.
The Rams took the lead in the 23rd minute when Christman played in an unmarked Curry down the left who coolly finished past OJR keeper Sarah Hughes (five saves).
It remained 2-1 into the second half as Spring-Ford had its best stretch, getting its reward on a counterattack from Rawley down the right who crossed to Gairo to make it 3-1 with 24:47 left.
OJR cashed in on a corner kick from Thompson who found the head of returning All-State defender Cahill for a thumping finish at 19:59.
“We were definitely doing well toward the end of the first and into the second half and once we got that third goal we kind of dropped off,” Fazzini said. “I hate how that happens and we’ve got to work on that.”
The Rams were right back less than four minutes later when senior midfielder and reigning Mercury All-Area Player of the Year Gabby Kane played in an overlapping Curry with a classy touch on the left side. Curry crossed far post to a crashing Franz for the decisive goal to make it 4-2.
OJR made it interesting in the final two minutes after Kopec’s rebound goal but the Rams and goalkeeper Carly Lare (four saves) saw things through.
Spring-Ford, with its 20-deep, senior-heavy roster, looks primed to repeat its recent success that sent the team to states in three of the past four years, but it isn’t going to get ahead of itself.
“We just want to grow as a team and hope for the best,” Christman said. “If we can get to the state championships that’s great, but we’re going to take it one game at a time.”
Both teams will have aspirations far beyond September, just as Leyland alluded to.
But they’ll likely have to go through each other first.