WEST GOSHEN >> When Joe Tornetta took the reins amid worlds of controversy in Bucktown before the 2015 season, he knew plenty of what he was getting himself into.
He also knew how much potential stood in front of him as he looked over his Owen J. Roberts team peppered with talent and geared to making a deep 2016 postseason run.
“They’re solid kids,” Tornetta said Thursday, “every one of them, all around. They’re coachable, they work hard. They’ve made a ton of progressions from where we first started.”
So when the Wildcats lost 12-8 against Radnor in the District 1 Championship at West Chester East High School on Thursday night, few tears were shed.
No fingers were pointed.
No tempers were flaring.
Just a team sporting their runner-up medals.
A team left with the emotions that come with earning the program’s first trip to the district final since 2001.
The same emotions that take a team from a first-round bow in the district playoffs a year prior to the title bout.
“I’m so proud of this team for making it this far,” said junior Anna Dempsey, “especially because no one expected it. We have worked really hard to get here.”
“The goal from the start is to get here,” added Tornetta. “Our vision for the whole season is not only to be here, but to be competing at the state level.
“Through all of the adversity we faced this season, we really beared down and proved the champions that we are.”
With seniors Kerry Huzzard and goalkeeper Sara Maute both lost to injury during the Wildcats’ playoff run, OJR turned to an array of underclassmen to fill in those key roles.
Up against an overpowering, all-around talented Radnor team, the Wildcats couldn’t keep the opposition quiet all that long.
Senior attack Emily Games paced Radnor with four goals while senior midfielder Katie Quinn had a hat trick and an assist on a beautiful feed to a charging Abigail Lord late in the second half to give the Raiders a 7-4 lead. Hope Smith and Fallon Quinn each scored twice in front of Alexa Solomon’s six-save showing in goal.
Trailing 3-1 just under 10 minutes in, the Raiders rattled off four-unanswered goals in a matter of less than five minutes to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
“We wanted to set our girls free in this game,” said Radnor head coach Brooke Fritz. “We played so structured against ‘Stoga (Conestoga) and Garnet Valley, that I wanted our girls to be able to come out and run. I wanted them to freelance a little bit and create their own chances.”
The district championship serves as Radnor’s first time holding the trophy since the 2012 season. After boasting a roster filled with seniors last season but falling short of the district final, Fritz admits Thursday was that much sweeter.
“We were tabbed as going through a rebuilding year having lost a lot of seniors from last season,” added Fritz. “So for them to go further than last year’s group is awesome. They’ve done it together … it’s not just one person.”
The Wildcats brought with them their typical offensive approach. Long, drawn-out possessions, waiting for something to develop in front of the goal.
Only those chances were few and far between.
The Radnor defense was collapsing in front of the net and also had OJR standout attack Maddie Gebert marked the entire way.
Gebert and Frankie Carroll would finish with a goal and an assist each while Danika Swech (two goals) had a score, an assist and clanged one off the post all in a matter of five minutes during the second half. Anna Dempsey scored twice while Anna Lavelle and Eloise Gebert each scored once. Claire Hampton made eight saves in goal.
Now coming off their first loss in over a month, Tornetta hopes his team is ready to gear up for a run at states, starting Wednesday.
“Some of these other schools around the state have been making strides,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready to go through the grinder. We’ve got to be ready to go up against some tough competition.”
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