Spring-Ford falls to Pennsbury, must reach states through playbacks

PENNSBURY — There is the easy way.

And then there is the Spring-Ford girls soccer team’s way.
It was never going to be easy when top-seeded Pennsbury came out on fire Tuesday afternoon in their District 1-AAA girls soccer quarterfinal.

It was going to be even less easy when the Falcons fired in two goals within 12 minutes on the start.

Those goals by sophomore Caroline Foley and senior Megan Engeland held up as Pennsbury maintained its unbeaten record by dealing Spring-Ford a 2-0 defeat and clinching an automatic PIAA berth by reaching the District 1 semifinals.

Pennsbury will meet Central Bucks West – a 3-0 winner over Owen J. Roberts Tuesday afternoon – in the semifinals on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.

“We came out here expecting it to be a really tough game, knowing they were state runner-up last year,” Engeland said.

“I definitely didn’t expect to put away two goals that quickly in the first half, but it was really nice. It gave us momentum and really pumped the team up and got us going.”

Spring-Ford, conversely, is sent to playbacks for the district’s fifth and final PIAA playoff spot, a road the Rams traveled a season ago when they reached the state championship game.

A difficult road, but a road successfully navigated in the past.“We’ve done it before and all we focus on is the next game,” junior defender Laura Suero said. “We’ve been in this same situation (having to go through playbacks) and we’re going to come out and play our hearts out.

“It didn’t come out as we wanted (against Pennsbury) but we’re going to come out next game knowing what we have to do. We were in the situation last year and we have to come out and win if we want to move on, which we do.”

The Rams will host No. 22 seed Great Valley in the playback round Thursday at 6 p.m.

The build to the Rams’ quarterfinal was strikingly similar to last season: The No. 8 seed traveling to the eastern reaches of District 1 to face an undefeated No. 1 seed.

But unlike last year when Spring-Ford came out firing and took a 1-0 lead on eventual district and PIAA champion Neshaminy only to fall 2-1, it was all Pennsbury in the early going.

“They came out stronger than us, with more energy and they hit us hard,” Suero said. “We felt that we could play with the No. 1 seed and we thought we could match up to them. And we did sometimes but they came out with a lot of energy and we weren’t ready for it.”

The Falcons were rewarded in the 4th minute when Spring-Ford goalkeeper Jenna Griggs mishandled a cross from forward Uche Onuoha, who brought a physical presence and led the line well for Pennsbury all game, and Foley was there for the easy follow and 1-0 lead.

Pennsbury maintained its stronghold on the game and scored its second on a similar setup. Kelly Amador sent in a driving cross from the right side, which Griggs got a hand on, but Engeland pounced 11:05 into the game for the 2-0 advantage.

Spring-Ford found its way into the game, but never was able to create the type of chances that sent it to a 5-1 victory over Strath Haven in the second round.

A lot of that had to do with Pennsbury (18-0-3) playing one of its most complete games to date, according to its senior midfielder.

“We find ways to win. But today we definitely had the team aspect, everyone knowing where they were going to be before they passed the ball, getting it to the corners and Uche was already there or people were there to finish. We were in sync the whole game,” Engeland said.

“Every day everyone steps out and comes out to give their hardest. Nobody is cocky, thinking that because we’re undefeated we can take a day off or relax.”

From here forward, there is no room for error for the Rams. But the hard way isn’t anything new to them.

Griggs totaled six saves while Pennsbury keeper Kayla Kunde stopped four shots in her shutout, aided by defenders Rachel Beri and Karina Raykova.

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