Pope John Paul II’s historic season ends with loss to Villa Joseph Marie

SOUDERTON — There’s a first time for everything.

For the Pope John Paul II girls soccer team, this season marked a number of firsts.

For the first time in school history, the Golden Panthers advanced to the PAC-10 playoffs (where they lost in the championship to Spring-Ford), earned a District 1-AA bid and won in the first round, advancing to the semifinal against top seed Villa Joseph Marie.

Unfortunately for fourth-seeded PJP, its memorable season came to an end Monday night in a 3-0 loss to more experienced Villa Joseph Marie at Souderton High School.

With the win, the Gems (17-1) will face No. 3 Gwynedd Mercy for the district title Wednesday at Council Rock North at 6 p.m.

According to Pope John Paul II head coach Stewart Sherk, it was a tough loss, but nothing his team should be ashamed of.

“We had a few unlucky breaks tonight, but that’s all part of soccer,’ said Sherk, whose squad finished 15-7. “I’m really proud of the girls for the way they played tonight and this entire season. We didn’t want to be satisfied just in making it here. We wanted to have a good performance, and I think we did a good job of that.’

The Gems brought pressure from the outset. After a shot on goal, which the PJP defense couldn’t clear, Morgan Gouger sent one to Allie Trzaska, who flicked it past freshman keeper Colleen Morton to give VJM the 1-0 lead at 38:54.

“That set the tone right away,’ Sherk said. “We weren’t able to get the ball out of the zone, and unfortunately for us, they took advantage.’

But Pope John Paul II refused to be discouraged by the early goal.

Just over two minutes later, senior Courtney Thompson gave the Golden Panthers their first shot on goal, which was a laser that was knocked down by the fingertips of VJM keeper Danielle Samson for one of her three saves.

In the 10th minute, the Gems’ Alyssa Dionsio fed one to the right side of the box to sophomore Murphy Agnew, who fired it in to make it 2-0.

“Even up two goals, I told the girls at half, ‘ We can’t let them get back into this game,” said VJM head coach Rich Finneyfrock. “They have some really talented players, and we knew that if we let them back into it, they could completely turn the game around.’

Just four minutes into the second half, Agnew broke free and delivered a pass to Casey Kilchrist.

The sophomore fired it toward goal, but was denied by a diving Morton, who finished with 13 saves.

“Villa Joe passed really well and created a lot of opportunities against our defense,’ said PJP senior Lauren Dao. “They took advantage of our mistakes and capitalized on almost all of their scoring chances. That shows how good of a team they are.’

With just 16 minutes to go, Agnew took a pass from Taylor Stevens, broke loose again and fired it in the back of the net for the final margin.

“I got the ball in the middle of the field with just one defender and the goalie to beat,’ Agnew said. “The goalie was all the way back on the 18-yard line, so I figured I’d give it a try.’

Despite the loss, the Golden Panthers were plenty proud of their overall body of work.

“Over the course of this season, we did a lot of things no one thought we could do,’ said Dao. “We beat Boyertown twice, something no one thought we could do; we went to the PAC-10 Championship, something no one thought we could do; we went all the way to districts and won, something no one thought we could do. I’m just so proud to say that I was a part of such a historic team.’

A team raised the bar for future PJP squads, according to Sherk.

“I’m really sad to see a lot of the seniors go,’ he said. “They’re a great group of girls and they have really made the past three years so enjoyable. But we have a lot of younger talent coming up, which gives us a lot to look forward to in the next few seasons.’


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