BUCKTOWN >> Less than a week ago, the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team stood aside and watched as the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship plaque was bestowed upon someone else for the first time since the 2014 season.
The Wildcats heard the cheers, saw the pictures and watched the celebration as Methacton picked up its first PAC championship in almost a decade with last Thursday night’s win.
No doubt each member of OJR has been foaming at the mouth ever since.
The No. 7-seeded Wildcats began their District 1 Class 3A playoff run in style Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over visiting No. 10 Central Bucks West in the opening round at Owen J. Roberts’ North Field.
“Last Friday was tough,” said OJR head coach Amy Hoffman of the day after the Wildcats’ loss in the championship game. “We sat and we talked — we got all of the anger and sadness out together. Then we came in Monday to practice with a new mindset that it was a new season. We’d have to work just as hard as we’d worked the two months before.”
Now, a long-awaited six days later, they’ve earned themselves the chance to do one better.
OJR (15-6 overall) will host No. 15-ranked Central Bucks South — a stunning 2-1 overtime winner over No. 2 Methacton — on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
While it won’t play out exactly as a redemption game, a win Friday would certainly give the Wildcats a little bit of retribution that could get that bad taste out of their mouths. It would also secure OJR its first trip back to the PIAA playoffs since the 2015 season.
Julia Lamb’s goal six minutes into the second half proved the difference. The sophomore midfielder finished out a perfectly-designed, even-better-executed corner try five minutes in that proved to be the game’s lone goal on OJR’s most threatening possession.
“When we came off at halftime, Hoffman drew up that corner and showed us how it would work,” said Lamb of her goal. “Eloise (Gebert) pointed to me and said, ‘Coming to you.’ So I knew I had to be ready for it.”
Senior Riley Hansen inserted a pass to Sarah Garritano. From there, the senior forward took a step into the circle, then sent it to the front of the cage back to the waiting stick of Hansen on the right-hand side of the cage. From there, Hansen sent one center, where Natalie Fuertsch tipped one past the outstretched C.B. West goalkeeper to Lamb planted on the left side. Lamb flicked one just over the outstretched pad of the goalkeeper and into the back of the cage.
“They said that the goalie would dive, so I knew my shot would need to be in the air,” said Lamb of her goal.
“Not to brag but that was a really, really great play,” said Hoffman with a laugh. “We wanted to insert the ball and the backup person would loop around, then throw the ball in the middle and we’d try and get a touch on it. We had girls there and waiting for a rebound — we knew the goalie would go down. So we were just hoping she would get it up and over her and slam it home.”
Central Bucks West head coach Courtney Lepping described it as a ‘coin-flip game,’ where one big play could have changed the entire outcome.
“That was the difference,” she said. “It was a well-designed corner that found its way in. That’s what we told the kids — it came down to a corner, that was the difference.”
Defensively, the Wildcats brought a unique approach to handling C.B. West’s leading scorer, Taylor Mason. Rather than marking her one-on-one, OJR was more focused on simply disrupting the passing lanes and making it difficult for the senior midfielder to even get the ball onto her stick.
“We didn’t want to necessarily take one of our players out the game trying to mark her,” said Hoffman. “I know that’s what some other teams have tried doing against her, and it wasn’t really successful. They’re a good team, and they have other players that can step up.”
For the game, Owen J. Roberts held a 7-6 advantage in shots on goal and an 11-6 advantage in penalty corners.
OJR keeper Cassie Mickelsavage finished with five saves while C.B. West keeper Peyton Fischer had six.