CONCORD – At one end of the field, Great Valley players huddled in the goal to snap a few cell phone pictures. They wanted to capture the moment — their program’s first playoff win in four seasons — for posterity.
At the other end of the field, Garnet Valley players collected their belongings.
“You don’t always get the win,’ said Garnet Valley striker Britney Dragoni. “It’s just how it is.’
Great Valley’s Courtney Stevens scored in the 44th minute, her second-half goal making the difference in a 1-0 victory over Garnet Valley Thursday night in a District 1 Class AAA opening-round game.
Garnet Valley (12-5-2) had three second-half opportunities to equalize, including a free kick with 10 seconds remaining. But the restart kick went to no one in particular and skipped away as time expired.
As a result, No. 22 Great Valley gets a home playoff game in Round 2. The Patriots will host No. 27 Central Bucks South, which squeaked past No. 6 Council Rock North on penalty kicks.
Meanwhile, Garnet Valley’s season comes to an end.
“To see the effort and the hard work meant a lot to us,’ said Garnet Valley coach Paul Costa, whose 11th-seeded Jaguars had never in program history been seeded higher, “but for the seniors, it would’ve been nice to put one in and extend our season.’
Great Valley’s goal came about in a peculiar way.
Four minutes into the second half, a player from each team met near the right sideline. The ball, trapped against their two feet from 15 yards out, kicked into the goalbox and toward Stevens, who buried a right-footed shot near the 6-yard line.
Garnet Valley goalkeeper Ashley Bufano had no chance at stopping the shot, which came as a result of winning a 50/50 ball.
“It was just me putting the ball in the goal off a rebound,’ Stevens said. “That’s what I do.’
“She’s a scrapper,’ said Great Valley coach Derek Brogan. “She cleans up in front.’
Garnet Valley lamented the goal the rest of the game. Costa’s team, similarly known for its grittiness, came out on the short end of a hustle play that led to the game-winning tally.
“That was a tough one,’ Costa said.
Because it was the decisive goal?
“Because it was a 50/50 ball,’ he said. “Those are the most-important thing. The 50/50 balls are the No. 1 thing on our list every single game. Give credit to Great Valley. They won some of those and capitalized on one such ball there.’
All three of Garnet Valley’s chances to level up the game ended at Dragoni’s feet. In the 53rd minute, she led a 1-on-3 and nearly put a ball past Great Valley goalkeeper Carol Burgess. Dragoni barreled into Burgess, who at the 18-yard line held onto the ball. A minute later, Dragoni turned and fired a liner into Burgess’ midsection.
And then, in the final minute, it was Dragoni who attempted to turn a free kick with 10 seconds left into an equalizer.
“It was so stressful that I couldn’t get through,’ she said. “We all wanted to win this game, and when it’s 1-0 with 15 minutes left, it becomes your everything to win. It’s your desire to do it.’
And it just wasn’t meant to be for the Jaguars, who got a stellar outing from their senior centerbacks Jackie Sever and Taylor Buckley.
“They were our backbone,’ Costa said. “I wish we could’ve won this one for them and for the rest of our seniors.’