BUCKTOWN – It was one of those games in which the team that made the first mistake would ultimately come out on the losing end.
Unfortunately for Owen J. Roberts, its lone mistake came a little more than a minute into the second half Thursday night at Henry J. Bernat Field, as Spring-Ford’s Brynn Hellberg snuck behind two defenders for the lone score in a 1-0 Rams victory.
Head coach Tim Leyland described the win simply as a relief for the Rams (9-2-2).
“We’ve had a really tough week,’ he said of the Rams going 0-2-1 and scoring zero goals in a span of three games against Methacton, Downingtown East and Boyertown last week. “But we were finally able to put one in the back of the net, which is huge for us as we move to the playoffs. Owen J. is a quality team, so for us to come out and get this win is an absolute relief.’
On the other side, the Wildcats played well — posting seven shots on goal while allowing just two — but were never able capitalize on their opportunities.
“That’s soccer,’ said Owen J. Roberts head coach Joe Margusity, whose squad finished its league slate 7-5-1. “It’s frustrating to lose a game like this, but I’m pleased with the way the girls played tonight. We moved the ball well and took care of it when we needed to. It’s something we’ve been working on all season.’
The first half was ultimately defined by hard-nosed defense from both sides and limited scoring chances.
Anytime the speedy Wildcats forward Mahogany Willis possessed the ball, Spring-Ford’s Laura Suero seemed to be right there to break it up and knock the ball away.
In the 14th minute, Katie Dempsey found Willis with a lot of space in front, but Suero came up big and knocked it away.
“As a defender, I take a lot of pride in not letting anyone beat me,’ said Suero. “We knew we needed to keep an eye on (Willis) all night tonight. She’s fast, and they have a lot of plays that run through her. It was my job to keep tabs on her.’
Just over a minute into the second half, Brianna Cirino sent a pass in front of the net to Hellberg, who knocked it in to give Spring-Ford a 1-0 lead at 38:39. The goal was not only the Rams’ first in more than a week, but also the first goal in a match this season between Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts — as the two teams tied 0-0 when they met in early September.
“It felt really good to put us on the board,’ said Hellberg. “Our team really needed a goal, not just to take the lead, but to get us back on our feet. We hadn’t been playing our best in the past few games, but we feel like we’re getting back on track at the right time.’
Keeper Jenna Griggs made seven saves for the Rams, none bigger than in the 23rd minute of the second half.
Willis got the ball on a breakaway, outran two Spring-Ford defenders and fired a laser to Griggs’ right side in goal. The senior sprawled out and just knocked the ball down and kept the score at 1-0.
“I knew there was a lot on the line,’ said Griggs. “Our team knew that if we could stop them from scoring the rest of the way, we could carry a lot of momentum with us into the playoffs. I’m just glad I was able to do my part tonight.’
Spring-Ford will look to carry its momentum into the PAC-10 playoffs, as the Rams open against Phoenixville Tuesday.
“Phoenixville beat us in a tight game early in the season,’ said Leyland. “Our team is going to be really motivated, and ready to go on Tuesday. With all of our experience from last season, I’m really hoping that the girls are ready for what’s ahead.’
Owen J. Roberts finished third in the Liberty and will now await its District 1-AAA tournament fate.
“We’ve been a little bit banged up throughout the season,’ Margusity said. “So this will give us an opportunity to rest up and get healthy just in time. I’m anxious to see how our girls can come together at full-strength.’