Fuertsch delivers Owen J. Roberts to state playoff berth

LANGHORNE >> She knew what was at stake.

A goal, and Owen J. Roberts was set for the state playoffs.

If not, the Wildcats were likely headed into overtime against a fast-paced Neshaminy team where anything could happen.

“I knew my teammates were counting on me,” said freshman Natalie Fuertsch. “It was probably one of our best scoring chances of the game. So I knew it was either now or never.”

The freshman capitalized on the chance, scoring the game-winner to cap her team’s 2-1 comeback victory over Neshaminy in the District 1-AAA playback bracket.

The win ensures the Wildcats a berth in the PIAA-AAA Field Hockey playoffs which starts on Tuesday.

“She really came through,” said Owen J. Roberts head coach Amy Hoffman of Fuertsch. “Aside from her goal, she had a great all-around game for us. She did everything we asked. Every ball that came to her, she found a way to stop and clear out.”

On the game, the Wildcats were out-shot 4-3 and out-cornered 13-5.

But it was their final corner and shot that proved the difference.

With the score even at 1-all in the 56th minute, the initial plan wasn’t even for Fuertsch to shoot off the corner.

“Our plan was for her to get the ball and send it toward cage, far-post,” said Hoffman. “But we’ll take near-post, too. Whatever it takes to score. She definitely made the right decision.”

Fuertsch took the insert off the corner from Corinne Gerber and sent a liner past the Neshaminy keeper with just over three minutes left in regulation.

The goal capped OJR’s two-goal second half which came after Mia Sexton scored Neshaminy’s opening goal just over two minutes into regulation.

Senior Makena Aberle tied it up 10 minutes into the second half, after she knocked in Bridget Guinan’s rebound on a fast break.

“(The shot) deflected off the goalie, and I was right there to knock it past,” said Aberle. “We’ve spent a lot of time working on that this season. After that, we really started to pick it up and gain control.”

OJR had control most of the second half, as their only two shots on goal accounted for goals.

The Redskins created one shot on goal in the second half and were held to just three corners in that time.

“We were creating some chances throughout the second half,” said Neshaminy head coach Caitlin Koczynski. “We just couldn’t capitalize the way (Owen J. Roberts) did. This was a heart-breaker, but these girls should be proud of what they did this year.

“This is definitely something we hope to build on with our younger players.”

In the waning moments, the Redskins were pressing with a corner try.

But senior Maddie Gebert shut down the chance and the defense eventually cleared it to preserve the win.

“They never lost sight,” said Hoffman of her team’s come-from-behind win. “Even if they’re down, they’re going to keep fighting. I know a lot of these seniors had their hearts set on going to states, so we’re excited that they’ll have a chance to play there.”

“It’s exciting,” said Fuertsch. “We’ve put in a lot of work this season to make it there, and now it’s paid off. I know our whole team can’t wait.”

NOTES >> Senior goalkeeper Amanda Lamb made three saves for OJR. … Prior to their state playoff opener, the Wildcats will face off against PAC-10 foe Methacton (a 3-2 winner over Mount St. Joseph) on Friday for the No. 5 seed as both teams will advance. “The girls are definitely looking forward to another shot against them,” said Hoffman, as the teams split the season series.

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