BERNVILLE >> The Owen J Roberts girls’ soccer team is within one step of playing for a state championship.
The Wildcats got an early goal from senior Mahogany Willis and two from freshman Sarah Kopec Saturday to defeat Central Dauphin 3-0 in a PIAA 4A quarterfinal match, held at Tulpehocken High School.
OJR last won a state title in 2003. The Wildcats, District 1’s No. 4 seed, will face the area’s three-seed, Neshaminy, in the state semifinals on Tuesday for the opportunity to repeat, after 14 seasons.
The Redskins defeated Governor Mifflin in their quarterfinal match, 2-1, setting up a rematch of the district third-place game (won 3-2 by Neshaminy).
Veteran head coach Joe Margusity was in charge back in 2003. He’s made the state semifinals nine times as OJR’s head coach, so this is not exactly fresh territory for him. But he’d love to do it again with a new generation of players in tow.
“We’re just focused on the game ahead of us, that’s what’s we’re doing,” Margusity said. “But we do talk about getting to Hershey and what would it mean.
“It would mean this is the best team I’ve coached at Owen J.”
Willis, the goal-scoring machine, notched the 37th of her senior campaign and the 101st of her stellar career just 5:42 into the match on a brilliant, cutting right-to-left shot mid-level from just inside the box that cleanly beat CD goalkeeper Cassy Baker.
Turns out it was the only goal OJR would need. The Rams could not match Willis’s speed and physicality straight up. The senior forward, one vs. one, was a force on Tulpehocken’s wide pitch with the ball in her possession.
“No one’s ever contained her,” Margusity said of Willis. “She’s just a very special player who’s going to be missed dearly when she graduates.”
Both of Kopec’s goals came off rebounded shots in the second half for needed insurance. Her first, coming at 48:05, gave OJR a 2-0 edge. A Willis offering in the left-hand side of the box clanked off Baker and right to Kopec, who didn’t miss the rebound. With her two tallies, Kopec tied the freshman scoring record at OJR with 16, a mark set in 1997.
Her second came at 61:00 off a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced directly onto her right foot at nearly point-blank range.
“Sarah has a nose for the ball around the net when those come out,” Margusity said.
OJR freshman goalie Samantha Hughes was sharp, stopping all seven CD shots that she faced. The Rams had a pair of quality shots on target early on in an attempt to exploit OJR’s 3-5-2 with sharp diagonal runs. But Hughes came up big on both attempts.
“She made all of the saves she was supposed to,” Margusity said. “For a freshman to do that in an Elite Eight game in the state is quite an accomplishment.”
Sydney Atkins provided the biggest challenge defensively for Margusity’s squad. The CD winger got loose a few runs down the wing in the first half and looked dangerous trying to exploit OJR’s three-player back line.
But Willis’s early tally allowed Margusity to tactically drop a marking mid in support.
“We shadowed her with our outside midfielders,” Margusity said of Atkins, “because she was very dangerous.”
Notes >> In a scary sequence late in the first half, CD freshman Emma Beaston collapsed on the pitch near midfield after head contact. Beaston remained motionless for roughly five minutes before finally sitting up. The medical cart was brought out to assist her off the field and Beaston, it was relayed to the press box, was transported privately to a local hospital. The game was resumed after roughly a 10-minute delay.