Dragoni’s goal wins it for Garnet Valley

NETHER PROVIDENCE — The winning goal epitomized the match. Garnet Valley senior defender Maddie Mansi played a long ball from her half with her teammates retreating and Strath Haven’s back line racing to the center circle. Four Jaguars lingered in an offside position as the ball landed in the Panthers’ side of the field. It appeared to be an innocuous play, just another time that Strath Haven’s high line thwarted an opponent’s attack.

Only Garnet Valley’s Britney Dragoni read the ball perfectly. She held her run near midfield so as to stay onside, then raced onto the ball. Dragoni was free on goal in a flash. Strath Haven keeper Katie Fisher met her at the edge of the 18-yard box, but could only get a hand on the forward’s ankle.

Dragoni staggered, collected herself, and slotted the ball into the vacated goal to give Garnet Valley a 3-2 victory at Strath Haven’s George L. King Field.

“I felt like I knew what I was going to do,’ Dragoni said of the winning play. “I pushed the ball around (Fisher). I was close to falling but it was important that I put the ball in for my team.’

It was the sophomore’s second goal of the game. She assisted on a third.

“I can’t say enough great things about Britney,’ said Garnet Valley coach Paul Costa. “I’ve watched her grow and she just jeeps getting better and better. She’s tremendous.’

Dragoni’s pace as well as her link up play with midfielder Maddie Ireland helped solve Strath Haven’s offside trap on all three Garnet Valley goals.

“We knew they liked to push up entering the game,’ said Ireland. “We had to make runs from the midfield to beat it.’

Strath Haven, despite the obvious pace of the Jaguars and some questionable officiating, continued with the high defensive line throughout the match.

“We tend to stick with what we know. We play our game,’ Panthers head coach Gino Miraglia said. “We live and die by [the offside trap].’

The first goal of the game proved that. Ireland chipped a ball in behind the back line that Dragoni reached first. Fisher, playing well outside her net, made a desperate tackle to try and stop the move. The ball ricocheted off Dragoni’ knee and crawled across the goal line.

Strath Haven responded less than two minutes later through its own star sophomore. Lizzie King fired a shot past Ashley Bufano to even the score at one with 31:14 remaining in the first half.

Garnet Valley retook the lead with just a minute left on the clock amid controversy. Again Dragoni found herself alone with Fisher after running onto a ball that was lofted over the top. Her shot deflected off the keeper’s leg and landed at Ireland’s feet to the right of the goal. Ireland fired it at the open net, and Dragoni, in an apparent offside position, tapped the ball in.

Miraglia and his assistants were furious. They believed the goal should have been disallowed, but the referee closest to the play was out of position. He couldn’t see the play.

No matter, Dragoni said the ball crossed the line before she touched it anyway.

The goal came soon after a vicious collision between Dragoni and Fisher in the midfield.

“She hit me in the chest and I couldn’t breathe,’ Dragoni said. She laid face down on the field for a few moments before heading to the bench. “I wasn’t going to stay out.’

Garnet Valley is happy she recovered. King restored the tie two minutes into the second half when she settled a Kira Venturini free kick in the box, and found the back of the net from 12 yards out for her 23rd goal of the season.

Neither team looked to threaten the deadlock for much of the second half. Dragoni had a chance in the 20th minute, while Alex Zecca nearly put Garnet Valley (12-4-2, 9-2-0 Central League) ahead in the 21st.

Dragoni made sure to make her next chance count, and, with 18:48 on the clock, she did just that.

Costa called the result “a landmark victory’ for the Garnet Valley program. It came with District One AAA implications.

“We’re looking to grab a home game and a top-10 seed,’ Costa said. “Our girls earned that.’

The Jaguars also jumped Strath Haven (11-3-2, 8-1-2) to claim second place in the Central League. The Panthers will join Garnet Valley in the district playoffs, but they’ll go in “limping’ according to Miraglia.

“We’re a little bit banged up,’ Miraglia said. “We have five starters out.’

“But take nothing away from Garnet Valley,’ he added. “They deserved it.’

In other Central League action:

Haverford High 5, Ridley 1: Olivia Butera’s two goals led a balanced attack as the Fords cruised.

Penncrest 3, Marple Newtown 2: Tara Higgins scored twice and Daniela Faux also found the back of the net to provide enough cushion for the Lions (12-5, 6-5) and keeper Kayla Allen (12 saves) to hold on.

Springfield 4, Harriton 1: Madison D’Ambrosio made 10 saves — yielding Harriton’s lone score on a penalty kick — and Emily Santana supplied enough offense with a pair of goals for the Cougars.

In the Inter-Academic League:

Agnes Irwin 4, Episcopal Academy 3:Kristin Burnetta capped her hat trick by netting the eventual game-winner, with fellow junior Hannah Keating assisting all three scores, and sophomore Lydia Bartosh also scored to boost the Owls into a first-place tie with Germantown Academy. Tara Boyle scored twice and Jessica Shanahan added a goal and an assist to key Episcopal’s second-half surge.

Notre Dame 3, Baldwin 2: Ariah Fish, Phoebe McClernon and Gabrielle Agnes took turns assisting Julia Dambly, as the junior fashioned a hat trick that enabled the Irish to hold on.

In the Del Val League:

Chichester 2, Interboro 1:The Eagles (8-9-1) scratched out the win behind goals from Megan Carroll and Monigo Karnley along with solid goaltending by Theresa Mignogna (four saves). Danielle Iavarone scored in the second half for the Bucs.

In the Ches-Mont League:

Downingtown West 8, Sun Valley 0: Vaguard goalie Amy Parker’s 13 saves kept the margin in single digits.

In the Tri-State Christian Conference:

The Christian Academy 6, Atlantic Christian 1: Grace Cryan had a hat trick, Carli Sitkowski netted a pair and Amber Phillips, in her return from an MCL sprain, had an assist and headed in a cross from Sitkowski as the Crusaders (7-4-1, 6-3-1) romped.

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