Owen J. makes short work of Upper Perk in PAC-10 semis

RED HILL >> Time is running out for the Owen J. Roberts’ seniors.

After Tuesday night’s win, it’s a safe bet that they know it.

Banged up, bloodied and bruised, Owen J. Roberts’ Makena Aberle was one of many senior standouts for the Wildcats, registering a goal and two assists in the team’s 4-0 victory over Upper Perkiomen in the PAC-10 semifinals Tuesday night at Upper Perkiomen’s Indian Stadium.

Upper Perk's 15 Julie Puelmer and OJR 20 Makena Aberle battle for possession in front of the cage in the first half.
Upper Perk’s 15 Julie Puelmer and OJR 20 Makena Aberle battle for possession in front of the cage in the first half.

“I just felt that we were connecting really well,” Aberle said, a wrap shrouding an injured finger, ice just taken off a foot that took a shot in the second half. “With the bouncing balls, Keeley (White) was always there with her stick and went straight to the ball and hit it directly into the cage.”

Senior Keeley White accounted for two of OJR’s goals, both off assists from Aberle, to lead the Wildcats into a rematch of last year’s PAC-10 Final with Perkiomen Valley (5-2 victor over Phoenixville in other semifinal). That final saw Perkiomen Valley cap off an undefeated regular season with a 2-0 victory behind goals from Mara Wrzesniewski and Kaitlyn Delaney, giving the Vikings their first title since 2007. Now the Wildcats, without a title since 2011, want to send their seniors out with a championship of their own.

“They are a great team,” OJR first-year head coach Amy Hoffman said. “They’re well coached and aggressive. They’re just as hungry as we are to get that title. They are going to finish if you give them a chance to finish. We have to keep our defense pushing as hard as they’ve been pushing all season and make sure that when we have the ball we possess it and we can finish when we need to finish.”

It’s hard for this defense to push any harder after its effort Tuesday night.

John Strickler - The Mercury Owen J. Roberts #6 Corinne Gerber advances the ball toward the goal in the first half.
John Strickler – The Mercury
Owen J. Roberts #6 Corinne Gerber advances the ball toward the goal in the first half.

The Wildcats stormed out to a 3-0 halftime lead, using a suffocating defensive effort to limit Upper Perkiomen to zero corners and shots in the first 30 minutes.

That defense, led by outstanding play from freshman left back Natalie Fuertsch, stymied the Tribe all night, holding them to two shots in the contest. Senior goalkeeper Amanda Lamb earned the shutout in goal, only challenged by a missile off the stick of Michaela Swenk late in the second half.

“Our whole defensive unit has been playing great all season long,” Hoffman said. “They’ve been replacing each other when they need to, stepping up when they need to. As always, I think Nettie Montes was great in there at center, Natalie Fuertsch on the left side came up huge tonight, she basically stifled their whole left side any time the ball was down there. Maddie Gebert, she just runs all over the field and can replace anybody when they leave their position.”

The defensive effort was a thorn in the side of Upper Perkiomen, which leaves the PAC-10 playoffs empty handed for the second straight year after a senior-laden squad captured the PAC crown in 2013.

“Any playoff game you want to go into knowing that you have the possibility to win,” Upper Perkiomen head coach Jamie Warren said. “We knew we were the underdogs. Obviously, Owen J’s a very good team. They have very good teamwork especially on their offensive movement. They were a challenge to our defense, they kept them moving.

“Their backs were really good, especially their left back (Fuertsch). We had to execute our plan which was to use the outside but they were strong.”

Upper Perk’s faults became OJR’s gains.

Dominating possession kept the ball in the Upper Perk half of the field for the majority of the first half, Aberle connecting on cross-field passes to White at the far post on two occasions to build a 2-0 lead 12 minutes in. Bridget Guinan then converted on the team’s second corner to make it 3-0, stuffing home a feed from Corinne Gerber who was fed with a well-placed pass from Nettie Montes.

“It’s exciting,” White said. “It’s been one of our goals this year. We had a pretty good regular season so it’s nice to come back and play PV again and hopefully we’re going to win this time, go out on top.”

For the seniors, it’s the last chance they get.

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