PHILADELPHIA >> An innocent-seeming lob through the midfield turned out to be so much more.
Miscommunication between two Dock Mennonite defenders led to one passing the ball to an open area instead of the goalkeeper as intended. Conwell-Egan senior striker and midfielder Chloe Grabowski claimed the loose ball and sprinted ahead on a breakaway. She beat Dock senior goalkeeper Audrey Schweizerhof to give the Eagles a two-goal lead in their 2-0 win in Tuesday night’s PIAA Class 1A first-round playoff game.
Conwell-Egan advances to face the winner of District 3 champion Camp Hill and East Juniata. For the second straight season, Dock’s campaign ended with a 2-0 loss in the first round of the playoffs.
The Eagles scored on their first corner kick of the game with 15 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half. Sophomore forward Emma Devine won a battle for a loose ball near the edge of the 6-yard box and beat Schweizerhof after Dock’s initial defense to score her fifth goal of the season.
“They controlled the ball really well and whenever there was a rebound for the goalie after Audrey made a good save, they got the rebound,” Dock freshman Emma Kratz said.
The first 10 minutes of the game mostly featured a battle for possession in the midfield before Dock had a prime opportunity to score about 11 minutes into the half with back-to-back corner kicks. On the first opportunity from the left side of the field, the ball landed near the feet of Pioneers freshman Meghan Jurin.
Eagles senior goalkeeper Anna Esposito, who recorded her 10th shutout of the season, came out to challenge her and forced another corner kick. Conwell-Egan successfully cleared the second attempt.
Four minutes later, Juris sent a long pass through the air to freshman Clara Benner. Before Benner could settle the ball and get off a shot, Esposito came off her line and punted the ball away.
“We had about four or five opportunities this game and I think Egan had maybe one or two opportunities than us, but if we would have capitalized on our opportunities, the game would have been a lot different,” Dock coach Shea Neal said.
The Pioneers couldn’t replicate their second-half magic from their district final win against MaST Charter, which came off a goal by Lauren Moatemri with less than one minute left. But they had their share of chances, including a free kick with less than five minutes remaining.
The Eagles nearly widened their lead on several occasions. With 23:38 left, sophomore forward and midfielder Olivia Gentle, who leads Conwell-Egan with 33 points, took a shot that Schweizerhof had to tip over the net for a corner kick.
“They had a lot of good possession and passes and they were connected and they were talking the entire time,” Schweizerhof said. “And they were talking the entire time, and they looked up to see who is around them and they just connected really well throughout the game.”
Grabowski took three shots within the last 10 minutes, including a breakaway attempt Schweizerhof stopped.
“I’ve got to give kudos to the goalkeeper, she made a couple good saves,” Conwell-Egan coach Andrzej “Andy” Adamiec said. “That second and third breakaway wasn’t as clean. The defender actually was running with her, so it wasn’t as easy of a shot as it was the first one.”
“Christopher Dock is always a tough team to play,” he added. “The last three times we played them, they beat us, so I was a little hesitant to see what’s going to happen today. …I have five sophomores starting and it was all up to how they’re going to perform. Are they going to perform up to the level of the state tournament or not? And obviously today, they showed that they belong on the field.”
The Pioneers will go home, but they do so with a district title on their resume. After losing four out of its five games from Sept. 20-27 — a stretch that included a three-game losing streak — Dock entered the district tournament having won five of its past six games.
“We had a lot of highs and lows, so to come out and to be district champs, I’m thrilled,” Neal said. “I think the girls had a great season.”
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