PHILA. – When his players are outnumbered on offense, Conwell-Egan Catholic (CEC) head coach Andrzej ‘Andy’ Adamiec instructs the girls to pass the ball back.
Three minutes into the second half in a scoreless Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) quarterfinal battle with Saint Hubert’s, CEC junior Theresa Richards ignored that advice, stripped a defender of the ball about 20 yards out and poked it into the back of the net for the winning tally.
The sixth-seeded Lady Eagles went on to an historic win over the third-seeded Bambies, who saw their season come to a close at 10-7-2, 8-3-1 in PCL play.
“She’s a strong player and she really wants to play,” said Adamiec, of Richardson. “What (2017 graduate) Lyndsay Straka did for us last year, Theresa is doing for us this year.
“She’s very aggressive and it pays off. She beat three defenders to score that goal.
“I was getting ready to yell at her but she scored, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take it.’”
Adding a penalty strike kick by CEC senior Ally Wojton in the 58th minute, Egan recorded its first ever win in a PCL quarterfinal.
— CEC Girls’ Soccer (@cecgsoccer) October 19, 2017
The Eagles (8-7-3) advance to the Catholic League semifinals where they will take on top-seeded Archbishop Ryan, which needed penalty kicks to get past No. 9 Bishop John W. Hallahan in its quarterfinal round. The semifinal will take place 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the United German-Hungarian (UGH) Soccer Club in Trevose. No. 2 seed and defending PCL champion Lansdale Catholic will battle No. 4 Archbishop Wood at 5 p.m. at UGH in the other semifinal. The final is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29 at Northeast High School.
In this game, Egan pulled off the 2-0 upset facing an opponent that eliminated the Eagles in the Catholic League tournament last year and toppled the Birds 4-1 in a regular season matchup.
After Hubert’s outshot 5-2 in the first half, Egan titled the field back the other way after the break. While the goal by Richardson gave the Eagles a cushion, it was an edge held by the slimmest of margins throughout most of the second half.
In its previous matchup, a non-league pairing the previous Saturday against Nazareth, Egan held a 2-0 lead late only to see the opponent score twice in the closing minutes for an eventual 2-2 draw.
“It’s really not a comfortable lead,” said Wojton, referring to the playoff against SH. “The last game, we kind of choked and let them back in it.
“This game was even scarier, being up one-nothing the last five minutes.”
While Wojton put the icing on the cake with the PK in the last two minutes, it was Richardson bringing that opportunity about. After bringing pressure from the right side of the box, the 11th-grader was brought down inside, giving Ally a chance to pad the slim edge held by the Eagles.
Richardson has been hot, of late. She scored twice in regular season matchups with Neumann-Goretti and Bishop McDevitt – both wins, twice in a 2-2 draw with Cardinal O’Hara, once in a 5-0 victory over Truman and once in a 1-1 tie with Hallahan.
“Theresa has really stepped it up,” said Wojton. “She’s been one of our key players all season long.”
Before Egan could put this one into the history book, it had to withstand a barrage of scoring opportunities by the Bambies. Trailing 1-0, Hubert’s best chance to get an equalizer came 13 minutes into the second half when senior Ava Pizzaro sent a crossing pass from the right side and through the goalmouth. However, classmate Carleigh Molinaro – the intended target – just couldn’t quite catch up to the ball.
With eight minutes remaining in regulation, the Bambies missed another golden opportunity when they shot the ball over the net on an indirect free kick. Hubert’s was awarded the kick after a collision between CEC netminder Maddy Terry and Pizzaro, in which the goalkeeper was tagged with an illegal touch.
On the free kick, SH senior Katelynne Brown put the initial boot on the ball. While she looked like she might push it to the right to a teammate that had a more open look at the goal, instead, she heeled it back to Pizzaro, who shot high and over the crossbar.
After that, the Bambies really did not pressure the Egan goal in the closing minutes. Deciding that the best defense was to go on the offensive, the Eagles did just that and time expired with the ball in Conwell-Egan’s offensive zone.
“We were just trying to play cautious and possess,” said Wojton. “I think this was one of the best games we’ve ever played.”
While Egan captured its fifth straight District 1 Class A championship last season and won a first-round PIAA Tournament matchup with Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg, the Eagles have not advanced past the state quarterfinals since 2012, when they won three state playoffs to reach the finals.
This year, after posting a 5-4-2 record in the Catholic League, earning a first-round bye, coupled together with the win over Hubert’s, is the most success Egan has ever enjoyed in PCL action.
“This feels great,” said Wojton. “We’ve been talked up the past couple years and we’ve kind of not been playing so well.
“It was nice to finally beat this team. They knocked us out the last time and they’ve beaten us every year.”
While Wojton is one of 10 seniors in the lineup, the Eagles have just four juniors playing varsity soccer this season. Perhaps looking ahead to the future, Adamiec has leaned heavily on some underclassmen including freshmen Maddie Chapman and Gia Brennan along with sophomore Alexandra Chalmers.
For her part, Terry posted her seventh shutout of the season, and her fifth consecutive clean sheet in Catholic League action.
“She’s been great all season,” said Wojton, of the CEC netminder. “She’s kept us in some really tight games with a lot of great saves.”
In the closing minutes of the first half, it was senior Carly Bonfig coming up with a save on back to back shots by the Bambies that put Terry out of position to make the stop. And classmate Erin Rotloff covered a drive to goal by SH senior Emily DeOrio midway through the second half.
Conwell-Egan 2, Saint Hubert’s 0
(Oct. 19 at Riverview Park)
CONWELL-EGAN (8-7-3) 0 2 – 2
SAINT HUBERT’S (10-7-2) 0 0 – 0
GOALS: CE – Theresa Richardson, unassisted, 43rd minute; Ali Wojton, PK, 78th minute; SH – none.
SHOTS ON GOAL: CE – 7; SH – 9.
SAVES: Maddy Terry (CE) 8; Celine Tobin (SH) 6.
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