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Owen J. Roberts

Owen J. Roberts books return to states, district semifinals in 4-1 win over Central Bucks South

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BUCKTOWN >> As Sophia Murray tells it, the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team is used to being overlooked.

But that’s just fine. The Wildcats will take their spots in the PIAA Championships and district quarterfinals and be on their way.

The No. 4 seed Wildcats earned those résumé boosters Friday afternoon with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over No. 12 Central Bucks South in a District 1 Class 3A quarterfinal on Wildcat South Field.

Junior Olivia Leclaire scored and assisted senior Bridget Gallagher on the Wildcats’ first-half scores while sophomore Raina Smolij set up both second-half goals, the first on a cross to the far post for Eloise Gebert with 9:29 to play (to regain a two-goal advantage) and the final exclamation point by earning a penalty stroke that was buried by Sophia Murray with 1:39 to play.

Owen J. Roberts’ Sophia Murray (24) and Central Bucks South’s Ashley Timby compete for the ball. (Austin Hertzog – DFM)

The Wildcats (20-2) may have flown a bit under the radar with Perkiomen Valley putting together an undefeated regular season also in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, but it’s impossible to argue with the early returns of their postseason: a third straight PAC championship – handing Perk Valley its only loss to date in the process – plus two convincing wins in districts.

“We’re always the underdog, always under the radar,” said Murray. “Every time, everybody always says, ‘Oh, they lost a bunch of players so they won’t come back strong.’ But then every time we just keep showing up.”

Just as they like it, the Wildcats will be the underdog in Tuesday’s district semifinal at No. 1 Central Bucks East – a 3-0 winner over Souderton Friday. In the bottom half of the draw, Perkiomen Valley and Methacton will meet for a spot in the final, making it three PAC teams in the semifinals.

Owen J. Roberts’ Rory Cahill, left, and Central Bucks South player battle for the ball. (Austin Hertzog – DFM)

It is Owen J. Roberts’ second straight trip to states and the district semifinals – and coincidentally its second straight district quarterfinal win over CB South after last year’s 2-1 win.

“Last year we went to states and made history by winning our first-ever state game. Every year we want to keep going farther and farther and farther,” senior captain Natalie Fuertsch said. “The team has a really good chemistry this year and we work really hard together. We love each other and want to be around each other and want to keep putting our hearts out on the field.”

Central Bucks South, the No. 12 seeds that knocked off No. 5 Plymouth-Whitemarsh a round earlier, still have a shot at making states. The Titans meet No. 8 Souderton in a playback on Tuesday, Oct. 30, with the winner clinching a spot as one of six from District 1.

Owen J. Roberts dominated the first 30 minutes, cashing in on a pair of goals with Leclaire shooting from a similar spot just to the left of goal. The first, LeClaire chipped through traffic to get OJR on the board and later replicated the moment, this time Bridget Gallagher getting a tip in for the finish and 2-0 lead with 11:56 until halftime.

“We were feeling great,” Murray said of the halftime lead. “We were missing one of our important midfielders, Jenna (Kirby), from sickness, so we all said, ‘We’re gonna win this for her today because we’re not ending the season without her.” We all stick together and have each other’s back.”

CB South got on the board when Casey Reilly converted a textbook corner insert from Annie Brady from center 5:17 into the second half. It was the Titans’ first corner and first shot on goal.
CB South rode the way and nearly got back on level terms with a misplayed clear found the stick of Julia Cooper in close, but OJR goalie Cayden Jarvis was ready for the save.

“It’s like a slap in the face when they score against us,” Fuertsch said. “After that, now we have to step it up. We have to keep moving forward.”

OJR did exactly that after the Titans’ spell and put together a series of corners that came good when Murray inserted to the near side to Smolij, who played to the far post to Gebert for the score. Murray’s stroke with 1:39 to play was just the final punctuation on a deserved victory.

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