Peterson’s strike delivers a PAISAA title for GA

CONSHOHOCKEN >> At a point late in the second half, Germantown Academy forward Anne Peterson made a run off the back line on a through pass and was stopped by an offside whistle.
As she retreated back, frustrated by the call, Patriots coach Chris Nelson shouted over a quick instruction. That moment proved monumental a bit later when another through ball came Peterson’s way and this time, she was onside.
The sophomore uncorked a shot that slid and twisted across the turf but found the back of the net in the 78th minute to give GA a 1-0 win over Episcopal Academy in the PAISAA girls’ soccer championship Saturday night at the Proving Grounds.
“It was a great ball over the top,” Peterson said. “The adrenaline was pumping, there were two defenders on me and I was hoping to find that open space and take that shot. It kind of curved on the ground and I was pretty lucky for that. It was an amazing moment to celebrate with the team afterward.”
The victory was the culmination of a terrific week of soccer by GA which saw the Patriots win three games by a 9-2 aggregate. Senior captains Emmy Dolaway and Sophie Axenroth said the group truly came together as a team after a regular season ending tie with Penn Charter and found a new life in the playoffs.
Saturday’s win was extra special because of the opponent and the sense of fulfilling some unfinished business. GA lost to PC in the title game last year, so the seniors were eager to get all the way back and close out a victory this time around. That the last hurdle was the Churchwomen of EA seemed fitting as Episcopal had topped GA twice in the regular season, both times by a 3-2 score.
“This feels amazing,” senior captain and goalkeeper Kat Stambaugh said. “It’s my last soccer game ever so just having everyone here, all of our fans and our school here to support us, it really gave us the confidence. This is the best way I could have ended my season.”
Stambaugh, along with her defense, was a big reason why GA walked off the winners Saturday. Containing EA, especially potent forwards Jess Shanahan and Molly O’Brian is no easy task, but the Patriots put in a tremendous effort trying to do just that. Stambaugh made five saves and her aggressive style of keeping helped cut down a few more chances while her backs gave plenty of help.
The game was played at a good tempo with both teams going up and down the field plenty but the Churchwomen were a bit more creative in the attacking third. It was GA’s experience in the back with Axenroth and senior Kayla Sieberlich that kept EA off the board, a huge swing from the team’s first two meetings where Episcopal went up 2-0 both times.
“We tried to stay more organized this time,” Axenroth said. “Last time we kind of got lost with the girls switching up front and coming in from behind. We communicated really well and played together and it wasn’t a one-girl effort.”
“They have a strong offensive third and one girl (Shanahan) that we realized after multiple times was the one we needed to shut down,” Dolaway said. “We all came together to make sure she was marked all game. We all realized that this is the point in the season where it’s time to win and we were not losing to them for a third time.”
GA’s best scoring chances came off set pieces and a corner in the first half nearly netted a goal, but a hit by Ally Clark was hit into the crossbar and clanged safely away. Episcopal’s backs also did a pretty good hockey impression, blocking at least five GA shots in the box through the game.
Dynamic forward Mac Pluck had to leave the game late in the second half after getting banged up on a shot attempt, leaving Peterson as the main option up top.
The Patriots’ desire to spring one of their attackers through were shut down by the offside flag numerous times until Peterson’s deciding run on a well-weighed through ball by Ally Clark. While she did the work and held her charge to the right second, even the forward admitted there was a little luck involved in the goal. When she hit it, the ball looked to be going for the keeper’s right before bending the other way and as the keeper tried to recover, her momentum caused her to stumble just enough that she couldn’t make the save.
“I was thinking please let that go in,” Peterson said. “My coach told me that on the field, I had to go a yard back. This ref was calling tight on the offside so if I started a half-yard back, I was going to be off.”
GA held off for the last two minutes then got to celebrate what they couldn’t a season ago. It was just the start of a busy night for the squad, which was off to the school’s Semi Formal Saturday night.
They got to go with a brand new gold accessory.
“This game is always going to stick out,” Dolaway said. “When we first saw the time for the game, we though how awesome would it be if all of our dates came, we won and got to go Semi and wear our medals with our dresses.”
“Our strong fan base is going to stick with us and I’m going to miss this group of girls,” Axenroth added. “It was the best time of my life.”

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