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Upper Perkiomen holds off Owen J. Roberts for first PAC title since 2013

RED HILL >> Upper Perkiomen had been there before. Just two days before in fact.

After stopping an onslaught of Perkiomen Valley corners in the final minutes of Tuesday’s Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal win, the Indians once again bunched up in their goal, needing to stop one more to knock off Owen J. Roberts’ in Thursday’s PAC title game.

“We were like, ‘We’ve already done this. Let’s get this out,’” Upper Perk senior AiYi Young said.

Upper Perk’s defense rallied once again, Young stopping one last OJR shot before clearing it out of the circle to finish off a 2-1 win over Owen J. Roberts for the Indians’ first PAC championship since 2013.

“We’ve been working for this moment for a really long time now,” senior defender Tori Williams said. “It feels really good to finally be done.”


The Indians lost to Owen J. Roberts in the 2016 title game when Williams and Young, who scored the game-winning goal with 5:49 left in the game, were freshmen.

Upper Perk had been to two PAC semifinals since the championship loss, but again came up just short, including a one-goal loss to Perkiomen Valley in last year’s PAC semifinals.

Bringing back nine starters this offseason and five seniors in Williams, Young, Carly Eidle, Jenn Fiorito and Michaela Grecczek, Upper Perk felt this group was capable of finally getting over the top. The defeats of years past gave them the final push. 

“We’ve had so much motivation because the last couple years we’ve lost in the semis,” junior Bella Carpenter said. “We were so close, and we just wanted it more than the other teams.”

“I’m speechless right now,” Young added. “It’s so awesome. Especially working so hard together as a team, to secure this win is so amazing.”

Upper Perk struck first for the second game in a row. Fiorito rocketed a shot into the back of the cage off an assist by Young with 14:32 left in the first half. Fiorito’s goal stood up through the rest of the first half, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The Upper Perk field hockey team hoists the 2019 PAC Championshp plaque. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

The Wildcats put the pressure on Upper Perk in the second half, but the Indians’ defense held strong. Upper Perk goalie Lynnsi Joyce made 12 saves in the game, while OJR goalie Cayden Jarvis saved 10 shots.

After five unsuccessful second-half corners, OJR finally got on the board with 6:56 left in the game, when Maddi Koury found Olivia Leclaire in front of the goal to tie the score, 1-1. Before OJR could try to build off the goal, Upper Perk stopped any sort of momentum swing right in its tracks.

“We gathered in the middle there, and we were like, ‘We got this. We need to come back,’ because we wanted this feeling right here,” Young said of Upper Perk’s response to the OJR goal.

The Indians immediately went down and won a corner after the restart.

 

Jarvis blocked the first shot attempt, but it rolled out to Young near the top of the circle, and she shot it past traffic in front of the net for the go-ahead goal just more than a minute after OJR had tied the game.

“The girls fought all second half, and it finally paid off and they got that chance,” OJR coach Amy Hoffman said. “We always tell them two minutes after a goal can go either way. You gotta play your toughest in those two minutes. Unfortunately we gave up a corner there. We stopped all the initial plays, and it was just unlucky on the goal line. It was just an unlucky stop.”

The Wildcats continued to put pressure on the Indians’ until the final seconds and then some.

Upper Perk defended a corner with 2:38 left then another with under 30 seconds to go. The Wildcats were awarded one last corner with no time left on the clock.

Young got her stick down to block the final shot attempt and after a pass from Luci Carpenter, she cleared the ball out of the circle to start the Indians’ championship celebration.

“I thought it was going over her stick, I thought it was going in,” Williams said. “I was so nervous. Then she stopped it and got it out…I was like, ‘Wait. Is it actually done?’”

Upper Perk’s Michaela Grecczek, right, and Owen J. Roberts’ Raina Smolij figh for the ball in Thursday’s PAC Championship game. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Upper Perk faced nine corners against PV on Tuesday and 14 more against OJR on Thursday, including eight in the second half. The Indians’ players said they spend at least 20-30 minutes every practice working on defending corners. Williams mentioned the overtime work they put in at the end of practice after sprints as having an impact in coming out on top in two playoff games that came down to the wire.

Young, Williams, Luci and Bella Carpenter and Joyce were back to stop OJR’s final attempt Thursday just like they were Tuesday against PV. Ultimately, two games in a row it came down to a group that has bonded together over the past several season rising to the occasion when the team needed it most.

“It’s a lot of communication, a lot of trust,” Williams said. “We’ve all been playing together for three or four years now. We know each other, so that helps a lot.”

“Honestly, we just tell each other they’re not scoring, and we hype each other up to get it out,” Bella Carpenter added. “And we do.”

Williams mentioned her voice was nearly gone after the win. In part from that communication she talked about during the game. In part due to the celebration after.

It didn’t matter much. She couldn’t figure out what to say when asked about finishing off her career with a PAC championship.

“No words can describe it,” Williams said.

NOTES >> Young played a role in all three of the Indians’ goal during the semifinal and championship game. She assisted on Ashlyn Gatto’s goal Tuesday before coming away with an assist and the game-winning goal on Thursday. “She’s invaluable,” Upper Perk coach Jamie Warren said. “She’s not only a very talented player. She’s very smart. She moved all over the field today … She puts the ball in the right places. That’s the bottom line.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Leclaire, right, and Rory Cahill celebrates Leclaire’s game-tying goal against Upper Perk on Thursday. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

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