Spring-Ford rallies past Archbishop Ryan in PIAA-AAA first round

Two minutes hadn’t passed, and the Spring-Ford girls soccer team was already losing.

So naturally the Rams had Archbishop Ryan right where they wanted them.

“We always work well when we’re down one. We always find a way to come back,” sophomore Alayna Gairo said. “So I don’t think any of us were down when they scored. We always find a way.”

Spring-Ford found a way by cancelling out Jules Blank’s second-minute breakaway by taking control and getting goals by sophomore KK O’Donnell and Gairo before halftime and rode out a 2-1 victory over District 12 champion Archbishop Ryan to advance to the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA Championships Tuesday night at Northeast High School in Philadelphia.

Spring-Ford (19-5-2) advanced to the Final 8 in the state for the third straight season while dealing Ryan only their second defeat of the season. The Rams face the winner of Wednesday’s game between District 11 champion Parkland and District 3 runner-up Cumberland Valley – a team the Rams have played and defeated in each of the last two PIAA tournaments – on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

Instead of ending the season on a devastating three-game losing streak – the Rams fell in the District 1 semifinals to eventual champion Central Bucks East and lost the third-place game to Council Rock North in penalty kicks – Spring-Ford has new life in states.

“It was a game we needed to get back on track,” Spring-Ford coach Tim Leyland said. “This game puts us on the right track to moving where we want to go. We’re in Game 2 of our one-game tournaments.

“It’s states, a different animal. It’s lose or go home. And we’re still alive and it’s a good thing.”

Spring-Ford has played deep into the season on the backs of a standout senior class led by defenders Laura Suero, Taylor Newhart, midfielder Bri Cirino and forward Gabrielle Vagnozzi. Against the Ragdolls, the importance of every member of the starting XI and beyond was on display.

“Alayna and KK both scored, but Molly (McHarg) was good tonight; I thought Libby Andrews was very good,” Leyland said. “As a whole it was one of our best performances across the board. We’re in states again and you can’t do that with four people. It takes a team effort and will continue to be a team effort.”

The upperclassmen-heavy Ragdolls’ teamwork was on display early when school record-scorer Blank broke behind the Spring-Ford back line from midfield. With Rams goalkeeper Amanda Byrd (one save) off her line, Blank blasted a shot over her head from 30 yards out for the 1-0 advantage.

The Rams quickly settled in thereafter and earned a dangerous free kick from 22 yards out on the right side five minutes later.

“The goalie was far post and there really wasn’t a wall, which I was really happy about, and the near post was open so I hurried up and hit it to the near post,” O’Donnell said.

On level terms, Spring-Ford continued to control the proceedings, ultimately having an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal (11-4 in goal attempts).

With just over 13 minutes until halftime, defender Missy Moore’s long cross in the penalty area wasn’t cleared and fell to Suero, who played nearly all game in the midfield rather than on defense, who made a short pass to an open Gairo for the easy finish and 2-1 lead.

The Ragdolls were kept in check the rest of the way as Spring-Ford kept pressing for a game-sealing goal.

Unlike Spring-Ford, Archbishop Ryan were not as fortunate to find a way back.

“We do a drill in practice where one team is down 1-0. And they have to come back and win. We knew how to handle it,” O’Donnell said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply