PHOENIXVILLE — The Phoenixville girls soccer team has had slow starts before.
Thursday night was not one of those nights.
Pumped up for the opening round of the District 1-AAA playoffs, Lauren Benner got the Phantoms off to a great start with a goal just 27 seconds into the contest against Upper Dublin, the co-champions of the SOL American Conference with Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
It was the first of a remarkable four-goal effort on the evening by Benner, one that helped guide seventh-seeded Phoenixville to a 5-2 victory over the 26th-seeded Flying Cardinals at Washington Field.
The Phantoms advanced to a second-round meeting against No. 10 Conestoga Saturday back at Washington Field. Conestoga took out No. 23 Penncrest in the opening round.
“I have never scored four goals in one game before,’ said Benner. “Their goalie and team was a good team to play. We came out with a game plan. We executed and came out on top. It is a great way to start the postseason. We wanted it. It was all a mindset. You saw one team play as a whole. Everybody wanted the same thing.’
Phoenixville (15-4-1) bolted to a 3-0 halftime lead on two goals by Benner with one by Cecilia Knaub sandwiched in between them. Benner now has 26 goals for the season and Knaub has 11 tallies. Knaub also assisted Benner on the fifth goal in the 54th minute of action to help the hosts sustain their lead after Upper Dublin closed to within 4-2 in the 52nd minute mark following a team goal and then one by Julie Cross.
Goalie Lainey Michaud had to make just three saves in the Phantoms’ win. Alissa Klammer recorded 10 saves for the Flying Cardinals. Each side had a pair of corner kicks.
Benner’s opening goal came from close range and a right angle. Then, following a breakway by Benner that was thwarted four minutes later, a Benner shot that went wide right, and two shots by freshman Jessi Rossman and sophomore Dakota Graham (12 goals), the Phantoms scored again.
This time it was Knaub putting a fake move on a defender toward the right side and then firing a shot to the low left corner of the net in the 19th minute of action.
Benner’s second goal that made it 3-0 came with just three seconds showing in the first half. Benner made a dribble dodge and found the lower left corner of the net for the score.
“We needed to come out strong,’ said Phoenixville coach Tim Raub. “Lauren Benner scored in the first 20 seconds. It was a good start for her. She is picking right up where she left off last postseason. She comes to play in big games. We had a good scouting report on Upper Duiblin. 34 (Cross) is a big forward who gets her head on the ball. We worked to the outside. We did a nice job getting to the outside. Lauren Benner, she just makes people miss.’
The errors in District 1 power rankings that forced a reseeding on Tuesday actually helped Phoenixville draw a higher seed. The Phantoms were able to get two home games to start the tournament.
“We had a nice start and dictated the tempo tonight,’ said Raub.
Phoenixville sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Casiano played her typical hustling game, running from end-to-end and assisting on offense and defense.
“It is great,’ said Casiano. “We play as a team. We’re like a family. We support each other. It is pretty tiring, but it is definitely worth it to help the team out. You feel like you are a part of it. I am so happy and so proud to be part of this team.’