Owen J. Roberts drowns out the noise, reclaims Pioneer Athletic Conference championship

RED HILL >> Members of the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team were focused on one thing Thursday night.

And that was: Thursday night.

Not the fact that Perkiomen Valley had an unbeaten record.

Nor the fact that the Vikings had already beaten them twice in overtime this season.

Not even the fact that the so-called “experts” had picked against them.

“It gave us a lot of fire, looking to come out here and get this win,” said Owen J. Roberts’ goalkeeper Cayden Jarvis. “We were all lit up during the school day and on the bus ride here (to Upper Perkiomen).”

That showed from the start.

Owen J. Roberts put together one of its most complete games of the season on the way to a 3-0 win over Perkiomen Valley in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championship game.

Owen J. Roberts’ Bridget Gallagher (4) brings the ball upfield while Perkiomen Valley’s Gabrielle Muschert (16) gets her stick in to defend. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“They were just lights out, from the time that first whistle blew all the way to the end,” said OJR head coach Amy Hoffman. “They wanted this real bad. They wanted the first two meetings we had with (Perkiomen Valley), but this one, they weren’t going to let them beat us.”

Owen J. Roberts (9-2 PAC Liberty; 18-2 overall) handed Perkiomen Valley (10-0; 19-1) its first loss of the season. The result earns the Wildcats their third PAC Championship in the last four seasons after finishing runner-up against Methacton last fall.

Junior Jenna Kirby got the scoring started six minutes in, finishing a feed from sophomore Raina Smolij on the Wildcats’ second corner try of the game.

Owen J. Roberts’ Julia Lamb (2) battles for possession with Perkiomen Valley’s Bella Ricci (13) during Thursday’s PAC Championship game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“I saw the defender move up a little bit, so I saw an open spot I could slide into,” said Kirby, who inserted the corner ball to start the play. “It definitely got our team excited. We just had to keep up the intensity.”

That intensity was ramped up to the max less than 10 minutes later.

With the Perkiomen Valley offense pressing in front of the goal, junior Danielle Hamm was awarded a penalty stroke.

Cue Jarvis in the cage.

The junior goalkeeper came up with a huge pad-side save in front to shut down the penalty stroke and send the OJR faithful into an uproar both in the stands and down on the field.

“I was expecting it to go to my stick side,” rehashed Jarvis, who finished with five saves for her 11th shutout of the season. “Last second, I saw the shift in her stick and I was able to read it and make the stop. I made it just in time.”

For Perk Valley head coach Erik Enters, that moment created a huge momentum shift.

Members of the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team flock to goalkeeper Cayden Jarvis, second from left, after she made a save on a penalty stroke during Thursday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“She gets that and I think (Owen J. Roberts gets) a little bit tighter, they’re squeezing their sticks a little bit more,” said Enters. “You can see it. They came back down and put pressure right back on us right after the stroke. That’s just how the game is.”

Nine minutes after it was nearly a tie game, Julia Lamb made it a two-goal game. The junior corralled the ball near the top of the circle, then dodged and weaved her way between three PV defenders before finishing a beautiful reverse-chip while falling to the ground to make it 2-0 with 4:07 left in the half.

“I just remember carrying the ball into the circle and I knew I had to get it past the defenders and get a shot off,” said Lamb. “We’ve been practicing getting shots off because we knew their defense was going to be right on top of us. As soon as we had any open shot, we knew we needed to take it.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Julia Lamb celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first half of Thursday’s PAC Championship game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Perkiomen Valley was creating chances in the second half, but couldn’t come away with anything sustainable against OJR’s defense. For the game, the Vikings held a 10-4 advantage in corners, though OJR finished with an 8-5 advantage in shots on goal.

With Perk Valley pressing the issue on the offensive end midway through the second half, OJR’s defense forced a turnover leading to Kirby finding Olivia Leclaire in front of the cage to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead with 11:07 left in regulation.

Perkiomen Valley’s Ariana Martina, left, sends the ball upfield while Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Leclaire (33) defends. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Playing in their biggest game of the season to date, Hoffman noted after the game, the Wildcats weren’t in need of too much motivation prior.

“I didn’t really say too much to them, honestly,” she said. “Right before we went out on the field, they were all talking to each other and they knew exactly what we needed to do.

“I just basically said, ‘Go get ‘em.’ That was basically it. They took all of the other words right out of my mouth. They didn’t need to hear much tonight — they had it in their hearts and they went and did it.”

As he paced the sideline following his team’s first loss in nearly a calender year, Enters admits he has all the confidence that his players will be quick to bounce back when it comes time for the District One playoffs.

Perkiomen Valley’s Bryn Marcavage sends the ball upfield during Thursday’s PAC Championship game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“They’re fine, we’ve got districts to worry about and they know that,” he said of his players. “They’ll be disappointed tonight but they’ll be fine by practice tomorrow. I’m not worried about them at all.”

Both teams have earned themselves favorable seedings with the district playoffs ahead, Perkiomen Valley sitting at No. 2 while Owen J. Roberts is close behind at No. 4 as of Thursday night, which would give both teams a first round bye. The soonest way for the Wildcats and Vikings to meet a fourth time this season would be the District 1 Championship game, slated for Nov. 3.