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Strictly Business: Owen J. Roberts tops Perkiomen Valley for first district title since 2011

Members of the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team gather with the trophy after beating Perkiomen Valley 2-0 during the District 1-3A championship Saturday. (MJ McConney - For Digital First Media)
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FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> Throughout the season, members of the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team had a simple celebration after scoring a goal.

Scoop the ball up from the back of the cage.

A contained high-five here, a stick tap there.

And it’s on to the next possession.

“Every other sports team I’ve been on, we celebrate everything,” said junior Olivia Leclaire. “But this team, we’re humble. We usually won’t celebrate until the final whistle.”

And once the final whistle sounded Saturday night, the Wildcats had earned themselves plenty reason to celebrate.

Owen J. Roberts scored a pair of goals during a dominant first half on the way to claiming its first district title since 2011 with a 2-0 win over Perkiomen Valley in the District 1 Class AAA championship at Methacton High School.

Owen J. Roberts’ Maddi Koury (20) tries to secure the ball in front of Perkiomen Valley keeper Ashley Derrick during Saturday’s game. (MJ McConney – For Digital First Media)

It was a rematch from last month’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game, won by Owen J. Roberts in similar fashion, 3-0.

“This team always wants more,” said OJR head coach Amy Hoffman. “They’re a really hard-working team. After a goal, they’ll say, ‘All right, we got one. Now let’s go get more.’ So they don’t really focus on that one goal, they won’t just celebrate one thing.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Leclaire (33) looks to pass the ball during the first half of Saturday’s district championship game against Perkiomen Valley. (MJ McConney – For Digital First Media)

Owen J. Roberts (22-2 overall) will open up the PIAA Class AAA playoffs next Tuesday with their opponent and location yet to be determined. Perkiomen Valley (22-2 overall) will open up states against District 11 runner-up Easton next Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

On this particular night with so much at stake, even the Wildcats couldn’t contain their excitement after each goal.

Leclaire opened up the game with a score seven minutes in, finishing one from the left side of the cage after Raina Smolij dumped it into the circle through traffic. As she reached down to pick up the ball, she was greeted by a flock of her teammates inside the cage with arms outstretched and sticks way up in the air.

Owen J. Roberts’ Julia Lamb (2) celebrates with Rory Cahill, left, following Saturday’s 2-0 win over Perkiomen Valley in the district championship. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Sixteen minutes later with the OJR offense putting the pressure on amid a corner try, senior defender Natalie Fuertsch secured a rebound off the Perk Valley keeper and slipped it into the back of the cage to give the Wildcats a 2-0 advantage.

“We knew we had lost to them (Perk Valley) twice this season, so we knew that we couldn’t go into this overconfident,” said Fuertsch, referencing a pair of 2-1 overtime losses to the Vikings during the regular season. “Even once we got up 2-0, we knew we needed to play hard for a full 60 minutes. We had a certain amount of confidence knowing that it was possible, so we put everything we had out on the field for this one.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Julia Lamb (2) follows through on a reverse chip during Saturday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

That showed throughout the game, especially during the first half.

The Wildcats held a 12-5 advantage in penalty corners for the game as well as a 9-2 edge in shots on goal in handing Perk Valley its second shutout of the season. Cayden Jarvis came away with both saves in goal for OJR.

“The girls weren’t ready to lose and certainly not to their rival, Perk Valley,” said Hoffman. “They didn’t want this to be a one-hit wonder. They came out and took it to them.”

With the win, Owen J. Roberts has now won 13 straight games with 11 shutouts during that run. Since their last loss — Perk Valley on Sept. 27 — the Wildcats have outscored the opposition 57-3.

Owen J. Roberts’ Julia Lamb (2) follows through on a reverse chip during Saturday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

At times throughout the night, it looked as though Owen J. Roberts had an extra player on the field. Any time Perkiomen Valley was able to set up the offense and move the ball into the circle, the Wildcats had an answer on defense and turned away the Vikings at the doorstep.

“Bottom line is we didn’t put the ball into the next,” said Perk Valley head coach Erik Enters. “Give them credit. Nat Fuertsch is a great senior, so is Eloise (Gebert). They have such a strong group of seniors.”

Disappointed, of course, with the final result, Enters was quick to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

“We’re disappointed because it was within our grasp,” he said. “But in the same breath, I don’t know that anyone picked us to be in the district final this year. Nobody said, ‘Hey, Perk Valley is gonna be undefeated through 19 games and go to the district final.’

“This is great experience for our younger players. We’re only losing two seniors from this year’s team Gab (Martina) and Bryn (Marcavage). I won’t be shocked when we’re back here next year.”

Similar to how they did following a loss in the PAC championship, Enters has plenty of confidence that his players will regroup in times for states.

“I wouldn’t mind a little run at states,” he said. “They’re a tough group, they’ll bounce back.”

Similarly, as they’ve shown before, Owen J. Roberts won’t be celebrating this one too long.

“We’ve just got to keep working and doing what we’re doing,” said Hoffman. “We’re proud of this team for what we’ve done so far, but we want to keep it going.”

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