Vagnozzi, Spring-Ford beat Pope John Paul II for back-to-back PAC-10 titles

BUCKTOWN – There must be something about the postseason.

The Spring-Ford girls soccer team, since last October, just can’t seem to get enough of it.

The Rams entered the playoffs in a self-described slump, scoreless in three-straight games.

So much for that.

With junior forward Gabrielle Vagnozzi providing the scoring magic with two first-half goals and Sarah Johnson tacking on a third, Spring-Ford solidified its place atop the Pioneer Athletic Conference with a 3-0 victory over Pope John Paul II to claim back-to-back league titles Thursday night at Owen J. Roberts’ Henry J. Bernat Field.

“I’m so excited because we played so well, just like we wanted,’ junior defender Laura Suero said. “We come out every game thinking it’s the most important game. We fought to the end, we played great and we won for a second time.’

Senior Brynn Hellberg assisted on Vagnozzi’s opening goal and junior Johnson’s second-half score while left back Tessa Nykanen assisted on Vagnozzi’s second. On both occasions, Vagnozzi cut in from the left wing and let loose right-footed rips from the edge of the 18.

The Rams (14-3-3) came out of their slump with a 3-2 victory over Phoenixville in Tuesday’s semifinals and built on it by playing one of their best games of the season against the Golden Panthers (14-6).

“It’s really exciting because we had been in a slump,’ Vagnozzi said. “We didn’t have a goal in three games and we come out against Phoenixville on fire and that got our confidence up. This was a big game and we knew not to take them lightly. We played great and it was fun. That was the best part.’

Pope John Paul II wasn’t to be taken lightly after putting together an impressive regular season and knocked off perennial contender Boyertown, 2-1, in the semifinals to reach their first PAC-10 title match.

But the Golden Panthers ran into a team that lights up when a trophy is on the line.

“You put a little pressure on them and you give them a trophy at the end of it and that reward is dangling in front of them and something clicks within them, that competitive nature,’ Spring-Ford first-year head coach Tim Leyland said.

“This is the best we’ve looked all season. To hold a very good team like PJP to zero goals — they’ve been scoring goals all season and to be able to shut them out is the biggest thing.’

The likes of returning starters Vagnozzi, Suero, goalkeeper Jenna Griggs (four saves) and midfielder Bri Cirino (the fifth returning starter, center back Taylor Newhart, is out due to injury) may get the most mention. But the work of forwards Erica Mastromatto, Missy Moore and Hellberg, the midfield presence of Libby Andrews and Gabby Kane and backs Amy Roth and Nykanen were just as key for the Rams in their ‘ Two-peat,’ as they chanted during the celebration.

Although it was certainly tough not to notice Vagnozzi, whose goals in the 20th and 25th minutes rewarded Spring-Ford’s relentlessness in the first half.

“I want to be a leader of this team and if I have negative energy then the whole team is going to have negative energy so I’m always going to get to that defender as fast as I can, and I did whatever I could. And it showed — I got two goals from my team,’ Vagnozzi said.

PJP, under first-year coach Stewart Sherk, tried as they might to get back into the game in the second half by moving standout sweeper Katherine Roth to attacking midfielder, sparkplug Lauren Dao to forward, to the Rams’ defense would have none of it.

Roth’s presence defensively affected Vagnozzi’s gameplan from her spot on the left wing.

“Katherine Roth is on my club team, and she is big and fast and I know that. I knew I needed to take outside shots and take the inside,’ Vagnozzi said.

That was the difference Spring-Ford needed to go from a one-year wonder to something entirely different, according to PJP’s Sherk.

“They’re a soccer powerhouse,’ Sherk said. “It’s an honor to play against schools like that and knowing we can compete. We upset a few AAA schools this year. Unfortunately, (Spring-Ford) wasn’t one of them.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply