Benner, Phoenixville stop Spring-Ford in battle of PAC-10 division leaders

PHOENIXVILLE — The Phoenixville girls soccer team does not like to hear that talk about small schools and big schools. Not in its sport. Not this year.

The Phantoms showed why in a key Pioneer Athletic Conference battle Monday evening at Washington Field.

The Frontier Division-leading Phantoms upended the Liberty Division-leading Rams, 1-0, on a first-half goal by Lauren Benner.

Benner scored at the 12-minute mark off a long feed from Cecilia Knaub to give the Phantoms (5-0) their early lead. And their defense played well enough to make that one goal stand up to post the victory over the Rams (4-1-1), who are the defending PIAA Class AAA runners-up.

“It’s Spring-Ford,’ said Benner, a high-scoring senior forward. “They are a big school and were state runners-up last year. They are a great team. They connect very well. They are very dangerous in all parts of the field. When it comes down to it, we played with so much heart tonight.

“Our defense was fantastic. They played with heart and the same with the midfielders. You couldn’t ask for more. We have started off the season well, but it is early. We are still peaking. We are still working on things, but we are getting there.’

The Phantoms had to hold up while being peppered by the excellent Gabrielle Vagnozzi and the rest of the Rams, who have a first-year head coach in Tim Leyland, a former assistant under former head coach Sheldon Chamberlain..

Phoenixville’s defense consisted of junior goalie Lainey Michaud (seven saves) as well as four returning starting backs in Lahela Worley, Sophia Kopko, Steph Schellberg and Sarah Weston, with midfielders Knaub and Kaitlyn Casiano dropping back to help out.

Jenna Griggs collected eight saves in goal for Spring-Ford.

“We were definitely tested,’ said Worley, a senior. “But we are all back since we played last year. We work off each other. It was just great work all-around.

“They (Rams) are a very good team. We knew that going in. We had to play a tough game. We had to play with heart, and that’s what got us the win.’

“It is a statement game for us this year,’ said Phoenixville coach Tim Raub. “Spring-Ford is the defending state runner-up. They are the best team in their division. We haven’t had any success with them before. Last year they beat us, 2-0. This year our girls wanted this. Our seniors are battle-tested. They wanted this win, and they gave us the lead for this win.’

Raub said the Phoenixville defense has come up big throughout the early going with a bend-but-don’t-break style in which each of the players picks each other up at different points in a contest.

Leyland knew his Rams had plenty of strong chances, but they could not cash in.

“That is part of it,’ he said. “It’s a cruel sport. But Phoenixville played great. They capitalized on their chance. My hat is off to them. They stuck to their game plan. They scored a goal and won.

“They are a great team with Cecilia Knaub, Benner, just to name a few. They are quality on the field. Coach Tim does a great job with them. They are very organized, they execute it really well.’

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