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CB South edges North Penn in District 1-3A playbacks, earns PIAA berth

North Penn's Mikayla Barrow collides with Central Bucks South's Ally Fitts during their District 1-3A fifth-place playback on Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

TOWAMENCIN >> With North Penn desperate for a tying goal in the final minutes, Bri O’Donnell connected on a loose ball in the circle that got past Central Bucks South goalkeeper Jillian Heilig only for the effort to hit off the right post and back into play.

Kristin Varilla corralled the rebound, but her shot was deflected by the stick of South’s Kasey Dietzel and wide left of the cage.

It just wasn’t going to be North Penn’s day. And with it came the end of the Knights’ season.

Mel Dunton struck off a penalty corner less than two minutes into the second half and the visiting No. 15 seed Titan held off No. 11 North Penn the rest of the way to earn 1-0 victory in the District 1-3A field hockey fifth-place semifinals Tuesday afternoon.

“It was frustrating today. We weren’t connecting as well as we usually do and things weren’t working as they usually do and CB South is a tough, tough team and they’ve been having a great postseason,” North Penn coach Shannon McCracken said. “We also didn’t get lucky today. Ball didn’t our way sometimes, we shot wide of the goal a couple times, we hit the post, just it’s a tough one today. Especially with a lot on the line.”

CB South (13-8-1) advances to Friday’s 3:30 p.m. fifth-place game at No. 9 Unionville — a 3-1 winner over No. 4 Haverford — and also earns one of District 1’s six bids into the PIAA tournament. The Titans will be making their first state appearance since 2014.

“It’s just amazing. All our seniors, it’s their last year and they worked so hard,” Dunton said. “I’m just glad that we could go to states for them. We worked so hard for it.

North Penn, looking to reach PIAA play for the first time since 2011, just could not click on its passing or offense in the Knights’ third game against its Suburban One League Continental Conference rival this year.

“We always say we get into a rhythm once we start the passing and the passing just never started today,” North Penn senior Erica Kelly said. “We are a possession team and we just lacked the finding each other today. The communications was also not there.”

North Penn’s Emily Crawford moves the ball up field with Central Bucks South’s Annie Brady in pursuit during their District 1-3A fifth-place playback on Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The Knights were unbeaten in their last five games against South — this year beating the Titans 2-0 at home Sept. 19 then playing them to a 3-3 draw Oct. 12. But unable to keep that steak going, North Penn ends its season with a record of 14-7-1.

“I’m really proud of this team, I’m really proud of my senior class. It was a great season and today was a really tough one,” McCracken said. “And it’s disappointing and it hurts and it stings and hopefully in a couple days or in a week, we’ll have a little more perspective and it was a great season. Proud of our finishing second in our conference, getting this far and we had a lot of exciting games this season, but it’s tough today, it hurts today. But a lot to be proud of.”

Each team generated just one penalty corner in the opening 30 minutes, but the Titans came out strong to start after halftime and on their second corner attempt after the break collected the game-winner. Ally Fitts slid a pass to her right to Dunton, who snapped a shot the bounced through a crowd and past NP goalie Anissa Gardizy at 28:02.

“The last time we played it was 3-3 and there were 18 corners each, so 36 corners in a game this time it was a completely different game. But we just changed our game plan a little bit,” CB South coach Pat Toner said. “Our corners have been what’s gotten us through the season so we worked on them forever so we thought even if we only get one or two we still have a chance. That’s what happened, we executed a corner fairly well.”

North Penn earned four penalty corners in the second half and put a few balls in some dangerous areas, but the Titans proved to be strong in front of the cage. O’Donnell’s ball off of the post came with under three minutes left. The Knights got two corners after that, getting a chance on the second but Heilig denied O’Donnell down low.

“It’s tough playing a familiar team again. We drew Souderton the first round, now here we’re playing CB South,” McCracken said. “It’s tough cause our conference is so strong. Our conference plays very similar hockey. All of the teams in our conference are well coached, kids are great kids, we have a lot of talent in our conference, so it’s tough.”

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