Vagnozzi, Spring-Ford hold off Phoenixville to return to PAC-10 title game

BUCKTOWN — Just five days ago, Gabrielle Vagnozzi hobbled off the field holding onto her left knee in the fourteenth minute and was forced to sit out the remainder of the Rams’ victory over Owen J. Roberts.

But on Tuesday night in the semifinal of the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs at Wildcat Stadium North Field, Vagnozzi scored two goals and added an assist to help put the defending PAC-10 Champion Spring-Ford Rams past Phoenixville 3-2.

“She’s a dynamic forward, and she proved that tonight,’ said Spring-Ford (12-2-0, 13-2-3) head coach Tim Leyland. “She constantly makes defenses worry about her which opens up space all across their back lines. After last week’s scare, it’s definitely good to have her back on the field.’

According to Vagnozzi, she and the Rams felt as though they had a lot to prove coming into the match against Phoenixville (11-3-0, 13-4-1) having lost to them earlier in the season 1-0.

“After missing the game last week, I really wanted to come out and make a difference in tonight’s game,’ the junior said. “Our team knew this was going to be tough, so we were fired up from the very beginning.’

Eleven minutes in, Vagnozzi found Erica Mastromatto in front of the goal who fired into the back of the net for her first goal of the year giving the Rams an early 1-0 lead.

The senior’s first goal couldn’t have come at a more crucial point in the season.

“We were so focused from the very beginning,’ said Mastromatto. “We knew that up to this point, this game would define our season. We needed to score any chance we could.’

Just over two minutes later, Vagnozzi scored off an assist from Gabby Kane extending Spring-Ford’s lead to 2-0.In the 19th minute, Brynn Hellberg passed it to Vagnozzi who faked out Lainey Michaud in net for the Phantoms and flicked it past her to give the Rams a quick 3-0 lead.

In the opening half, Phoenixville was dominated by Spring-Ford as the Rams outshot them 14-3.

“We didn’t come out and play our game in the first half,’ said Phoenixville head coach Tim Raub. “And on the other side, they were ready to go and playing really well. As a team, we needed to look inside ourselves, go out and put something together in the second half.’

Throughout the first 25 minutes of the second half, neither team was able to put much of anything together.

But then with just under 15 minutes remaining, the Phoenixville offense began to click.

At 13:35, Dakota Graham scored with an assist from Cecilia Knaub to bring the Phantoms within two at 3-1.

Just five minutes later, Lauren Benner fired one top left on a breakaway to make it 3-2 with 8:42 left.

“In the second half, we played the way we know we can play,’ said Knaub. “We started to do the things we needed to do all along. We adjusted our attitude and took better control of the ball which led to more scoring chances.’

Throughout the remaining time, Phoenixville moved numerous players forward and pressed for a scoring opportunity, but Spring-Ford continued minimize their chances until the clock struck 0:00.

“This was a really great win,’ said Leyland. “Our girls knew that we belonged here and that we would do whatever it takes to earn a trip to the Championship. I’m proud of them, but we’re not celebrating anything just yet.’

On Thursday, the Rams will face Pope John Paul II in the PAC-10 Championship as they look to defend their title after defeating Boyertown 2-1 last year.

“They’re a good, young team with a lot to prove,’ said Leyland. “But I have all the confidence in the world in my girls. We’re motivated, we’ve been playing hard, and we’re excited to see what we can do against them.’

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