CONCORD >> After losing the first three draws of the game, which led to three early goals for Perkiomen Valley Tuesday afternoon at Moe DeFrank Stadium, Garnet Valley’s Madi McKee turned to a tried and true remedy to get back on track in the circle.
The 6-1 junior closed her eyes, took slow, deep breaths and worked on her technique. It’s a little trick she learned from her mother and GV assistant coach, Lara Cini, who was a three-time All-American at Longwood University in Virginia.
“Even if it doesn’t work, I can focus on where I want to get the ball,” McKee said.
The routine, though, did work. McKee went on to win eight draw controls and that helped the top-seeded Jaguars rally from that three-goal deficit to knock off the 12th-seeded Vikings, 10-8, and advance to Thursday’s championship game in the District 1 Class 3A girls tournament.
Kara Nealon led the way with three goals and two assists. Riley Delaney added four goals and Kamryn McNeal contributed four assists to help Garnet Valley reach the district final for the first time since 2014, where the Jags will take on Central League rival Springfield, a 10-9 winner over Unionville in overtime.
Perkiomen faces Unionville in the third-place game. The sites and times of those games have not been determined.
McKee also scored twice, but it was her work in the circle that prevented Garnet Valley (18-2) from becoming Perk Valley’s third straight upset victim in the district tournament.
The Vikings (15-7), who knocked off fifth-seeded Harriton and fourth-seeded C.B. West to reach the semifinals and earn a berth in the PIAA tournament for the first time in program history, used goals from Caitlin Leap, Riley McGettigan and Paige Tyson, to get a 3-0 jump on the Jags 6 minutes, 17 seconds into the game.
Garnet Valley coach Jenny Purvis called timeout after Tyson converted a pass from Kate Hickey to give Perk Valley that 3-0 cushion with 18:43 to play in the first half.
“All of these girls have been in situations where we’ve been down 3-0,” Purvis said. “They know we can come back so it wasn’t a shock to them, but I still had to call a timeout to stop the bleeding and get back into that one-goal-at-a-time mentality.”
The Jaguars slowly chipped away and tied it on first of Kara Nealon’s three goals. Hickey scored a little over a minute later to put the Vikings on top, 4-3, but Nealon and Riley Delaney (two goals) countered to put the Jags back in front, 5-4, at halftime. Delaney scored the first of her two goals with 1:50 left in the opening half to give Garnet Valley its first lead of the game.
“I think Garnet Valley started out a little slow and then turned it on a little bit,” said Perkiomen Valley coach Lisa Clark, a 2005 graduate of Penncrest High School. “We were having trouble stopping their cutters. They’re a high-powered team and once they started going they were tough to stop.”
Senior Kamryn McNeal did a lot of that damage. She had four assists, to go along with two ground balls and one draw control.
“We realized we were in a game,” Kara Nealon said. “We took our time and eventually figured out what we had to do in our attack and on defense.”
And in the circle, which is where McKee came up big, after a rough start.
“When I’m not winning the draws, sometimes it can get in my head,” McKee said. “And so sometimes I just have to step back, breathe and remember, ‘I can do this. I’ve done it before a thousand times. I just have to get back into the rhythm of things … and once we all got into the swing of things it made the game flow a lot better.”
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