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Picture Perfect: Willis’ second-half tally the difference in Owen J. Roberts’ win over Haverford

BUCKTOWN >> Moments after the final whistle sounded on Thursday evening, Mahogany Willis whipped out her phone on the sideline, gathered her teammates around and turned her camera to rearview mode for a group selfie.

“Wait, hold on,” she beckoned to her teammates after the first attempt, “we’ve got to try that one over again.”

The team regrouped behind the Owen J. Roberts senior again, this time taking a photo to Willis’ complete satisfaction.

Those few moments told a linear tale to the Owen J. Roberts’ girls soccer team’s 1-0 win over Haverford during the second round of the District One Class 4A playoffs earlier. After a forgettable first half, one which many members of the Wildcat squad would likely prefer to erase from their memory, OJR took advantage of Willis’ perfect shot early in the second half and rode it out to the win.

Haverford’s Alyssa Hayes (17) looks to pass it off while Owen J. Roberts’ Kylee Macleod (15) defends. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

As a result, No. 2-seeded Owen J. Roberts (19-1 overall) moves on to the district quarterfinals where they’ll face the winner of Souderton and Upper Dublin on Saturday at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, No. 15 Haverford’s season comes to a close at 11-5-3 overall

All afternoon, the speedy and always-dangerous Willis was marked step-for-step by Haverford senior defender Nora Janzer. Janzer frustrated her counterpart all throughout the first half contesting any ball that came her way and getting a foot in any time Willis gained possession.

“That’s probably one of the best players I’ve been up against One-V-One in high school,” said Willis. “I was getting aggravated, I’m not gonna lie. I’ve never seen a high school player keep a mark on me that well and aggravate me like that.”

Haverford’s Anna Mefford splits Owen J. Roberts defenders Caroline Thompson, left, and Sarah Kopec, right, during Thursday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Haverford head coach Alexandra Marrone had nothing but positives afterward, specifically on the Fords’ defensive efforts.

“That was our goal going in,” she said of trying to slow down Willis. “We had heard and saw a little bit of the film that Mahogany was their top scorer. So we decided to man-mark her, which left the back really open without Nora in there. Our other three backs really picked up the slack with her running free.”

Willis finally got hers in the second half, though.

Five minutes after the break, freshman forward Sarah Kopec sent a through-ball to Willis just inside the 20 yard-line. From there, Willis beat her defender with a quick-turn kick, faced the goal and snuck one in just below the crossbar to give her team a decisive one-goal lead.

Owen J. Roberts’ Caroline Thompson takes it upfield while Haverford’s Alyssa Hayes gives chase. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“It takes a special player to get loose and bury one that way,” said OJR head coach Joe Margusity. “I think No. 14 (Janzer) did the best job on Mahogany we’ve seen all year long.”

With Willis handcuffed most of the way, the Wildcats were held to just three shots on goal, two of which were saved by the Fords’ senior goalkeeper Alison Durfee. In the OJR goal on the other end, freshman keeper Samantha Hughes came up with four saves, aided by a swelling defense out front.

“It was a physical game,” said senior defender Kylie Cahill. “Once it starts getting that way, it gets away from the soccer part and can sometimes pull us out of our game. I think we handled it well and stayed focused.”

Although they came away empty-handed, Haverford had some scoring chances throughout the afternoon.

Haverford goalkeeper Alison Durfee makes a stop in front during Thursday’s game against Owen J. Roberts. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

In the 38th minute, junior Rebekah Cunningham sailed a free-kick just inches above the crossbar. Then in the second half, when the Fords were making on final push, Sadie Gold sent a textbook cross to the center of the goal where it just missed the foot of a Haverford striker and rolled out of the zone.

“We controlled the ball well in the midfield,” said Marrone. “The girls are upset that the season’s over, but if you have to lose, this is a good one to go out on. We definitely left it all out there.”

Much to how Willis did in the second half as well as in the postgame, Owen J. Roberts will look to continue to capture the moment as they work toward making their district playoff run.

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