Gebert’s emergence as leader carried OJR to PAC-10 title; garners her All-Area POY honors

BUCKTOWN– Nothing is ever guaranteed.

For Maddie Gebert and the Owen J. Roberts girls lacrosse program, that meant playing in 2015.

Following a tumultuous offseason in which several key members of the Wildcat coaching staff resigned, the team found itself without a leader a month prior to the start of the regular season.

There was no time to develop chemistry and devise schemes. No time to develop an identity.

“It was an absolute mess,’ said Gebert. “Our team was not together at all throughout the offseason. No one was talking, no one was together. We really didn’t know what to expect.’

“It was getting to a point where I was starting to think we may not even have a season,’ she added. “We were desperate for anyone to come in and coach. We were asking random teachers who knew nothing about lacrosse to coach, just because we needed an adult out there supervising us.’

Just four weeks before the season opener against Perkiomen Valley, Joe Tornetta was selected as the team’s new head coach.

After spending the previous 25 years coaching girls lacrosse at Great Valley High School, Tornetta had plenty of experience in girls lacrosse as well as in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.

“I was excited to see what these girls could do,’ said Tornetta. “There were plenty of challenges entering the season, but the biggest one we faced was getting everyone on the same page and working together as a team. As we got closer to the start of the season, Maddie and a few others did a great job of getting our team together and getting everyone motivated for the season.’

What the team could do, what Gebert could do, was historic.Owen J. RobertsGlax

Under the experienced coaching of Tornetta and the emergence of Gebert in the midfield, Owen J. Roberts went undefeated in the PAC-10 and went on to win the program’s first conference title in 14 seasons with an 11-10 win over Methacton in the PAC-10 championship, becoming the first team not named Boyertown to capture a PAC-10 crown in 11 years.

“It was unbelievable,’ she said. “I would have never expected us to end up as well as we did, especially because everything we went through before the season even started. We came together and put the offseason behind us…I think our success (this past season) shows that.’

“On paper, there were some really good teams in the league that probably should have beat us,’ she admitted. “But we were never intimidated. We always stuck to our game no matter who we were up against.’

Gebert led her team with 83 goals on the season, finishing second in the PAC-10 in scoring behind only Phoenixville senior Zoe Bullotta with 101.

Her leadership and efforts both on and off the field have earned her the title of the Mercury All-Area Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.

In addition, Gebert has also been named to the U.S. Lacrosse Girls’ High School All-American Team.

“Maddie deserves all the recognition she has earned,’ said Tornetta. “She was all-around outstanding this past season. She has a tremendous skill-set and a great work ethic to back it.’

“This year has been a whole new experience for me,’ she said. “It’s new because I haven’t really been acknowledged for anything before this season. It’s been kind of a bomb drop because I’ve been working so hard just to get this far. It feels amazing to be recognized for it.’

Gebert’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed around the PAC-10, either.

“She was a huge part in OJR’s success this year,’ said Boyertown girls lacrosse head coach Pam Wernersbach. “If you ever want to recognize a team’s top player, look for the girl being face guarded by the opposition. If you still see her scoring despite the face guard, then you have one heck of a player. Gebert did this numerous times this year.’

Gebert began the season in memorable fashion, scoring 25 goals in the team’s first five games, including a season-high nine goals in a win against Boyertown in the second game of the year.

Two days after Methacton snapped Boyertown’s 152-game winning streak spanning over the past decade, Gebert and the Wildcats gave the Bears their second-straight loss.

For her, that win was the start of what would become an unforgettable season.

“During my freshman and sophomore seasons, we expected to lose to Boyertown every time we faced them … that’s just the way it was,’ said Gebert. “So when we beat them the first time, it was like ‘ Wow, we can beat anyone. We can be really good this year.’ I think that game really brought our confidence level up.’

And the Wildcats looked confident, outscoring opponents 293-148 during the regular season and the PAC-10 playoffs, while suffering a lone 10-9 non-league loss to Central Bucks West near the end of the regular season.

With all of their regular season and PAC-10 postseason success behind them, the fifth-seeded Wildcats entered the District 1-AAAA playoffs with high hopes.

“We were coming off the PAC-10 championships, which was our main goal all season long,’ she said. “I think we went into the district playoffs too high on ourselves. And we paid for it.’

Downingtown West, the No. 27 seed, made the Wildcats pay pulling off an 8-6 upset, ending OJR’s season much earlier than anyone had anticipated.

“That was probably one of the biggest let downs I had in my entire career,’ said Gebert. “Our team definitely could have made a huge dent in the district playoffs. I think we were so set on winning the PAC-10 title that we lost our focus.’

Now the team is looking to build off of last season.

With just two starters departing due to graduation and enrollment at The Hill School, the Wildcats will return the brunt of their key role players.

“We’re already looking forward to next year,’ said Tornetta. “With the key players we have returning and the young players coming up, we should have a really strong program for the next couple of years. It’s exciting to watch, hopefully everyone can continue to develop.’

Although she has just one year left with the program, Gebert can guarantee that the future will continue to shine bright for Owen J. Roberts.

“I think this past season was just the start of what is developing into a really strong program,’ said Gebert. “There are a bunch of great athletes coming up. I’m excited to see what we’ll be able to accomplish this coming season.’

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