GLENOLDEN >> Paige Dorwart walked off the field at South Avenue Athletic Complex for the final time in her Interboro career Wednesday night sporting an unusual accessory.
It wasn’t the drenched uniform, an avoidable consequence of the unrelenting downpour deluging the Bucs’ District 1 Class 2A playoff opener against Phoenixville. Instead it was the beaming smile, one that was absent when she subbed off the field for the final time in a 17-7 setback for the seventh-seeded Bucs but that resurfaced once the senior midfielder reconvened with teammates.
“I’m on top of the world,” Dorwart said. “Win or lose, we did it as a team. We played our best, and I think we did good today.”
Hosting a playoff game represents a significant step for the program that Dorwart is now moving on from. The way coach Stephanie D’Alonzo’s team arrived there, by relying on talented underclassmen, holds even more promise for the future. And while No. 10 Phoenixville was decisively the better team on the night, this wasn’t a doormat Interboro team in the playoffs only by virtue of winning a league title. It was one that battled and made things uncomfortable for stretches.
That’s the pride that informs Dorwart’s smile, one of four senior starters on a squad overwhelmingly led by youngsters. So it was again Wednesday, with fab freshman Keri Barnett scoring four goals and sophomore Morgan Reed tallying a hat trick, two of the goals set up by classmate Marissa Mullan. Reed and Barnett tied for a game-high six draw controls each. Freshman goalie Makenna Balawejder provided a spark with five second-half saves.
That’s plenty of reason for optimism beyond the result of one game for the Bucs (14-5). It’s also a much different feeling than the 20-0 loss absorbed last season as the 16th and final seed in the field.
“I think we have something that no other team has as Bucs,” Dorwart said. “We have spirit, we have rowdiness, we have toughness and we win and lose as a team. We don’t put each other down. We put each other up no matter what.”
“I feel like it means a lot to this program because we haven’t been here before,” Reed said. “And for us to get better each year and progress and move up, it means a lot to the girls and it means a lot to the program.”
It’s not often that an underclass contingent can so drastically shape the direction of a team. But that’s been the case at Interboro, where both Barnett and Reed have racked up 50-goal seasons and led by example from an early age.
“I learn so much from them,” said Dorwart, who finishes third on the squad with 25 goals. “Even though they’re younger than me, I learn every day from them. They say they’ve learned a few things from me, and that makes me proud. I’m proud to have them on my team and I’m proud that they’re so good and they’re going to carry this program so far.”
Phoenixville has its share of young talent, too, which navigates them to a date with No. 2 seed and reigning District 1 and PIAA champion Radnor (Friday, 4 p.m.). Five of the Phantoms’ goals came from sophomore Allison Bonshock. Four were provided by freshman Alana Lathan. That duo’s speed and length created a problem all night for the Bucs, getting around defenders and finding the right angle for a shot on cage.
“That’s something we work on, especially in our warmups,” Bonshock said. “We like to do the X cuts and we work on getting a step ahead of our defenders and whipping a shot.”
The Phantoms extended possessions all evening, depriving Interboro of the ball and dictating tempo. It helped that four of Interboro’s first-half trips ended in saves by goalie Sydney Alling. That provided room for Phoenixville to operate, controlling the clock and making Interboro work so hard for the ball that there was little energy left to sculpt error-free clears or quality chances.
The result was a 9-1 lead at halftime, too great for the Bucs to overcome.
“I think it definitely runs them down, knowing that we have the ball,” Bonshock said. “And it also helps our girls get our speed back because they just ran the full field.”
Mary Michaud added three goals and two assists for the Phantoms. Maddie White and Katie Baker chipped in two goals and a helper each.
Interboro didn’t cower in the face of that early edge, though. Lathan triggered the running clock with 19 minutes to play, but two goals from Barnett keyed a 3-0 run to get within 11-4. Phoenixville answered with three straight tallies, but Barnett and Reed still had goals left to make it 16-7 with six minutes left.
It wasn’t enough to alter the final result, but it was plenty of progress, extrapolating from last year’s trajectory, to send the Bucs into the offseason hopeful of what could be in the offing.
“We learn a lot from teams like this,” Reed said. “We watch them and watch how they play, and then we shadow them or try to learn from them.”
“I believe that they’ll go far next year,” Dorwart said. “I have faith in them, especially with Morgan and Keri. They’re here, they’ll help them and they’re going to grow, no doubt in my mind.”
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