Perkiomen Valley finishes strongest, prevails over Owen J. Roberts 8-7 to reach PAC championship

GRATERFORD >> It’s never been by design, but the Perkiomen Valley boys lacrosse team is living the adage “it’s not how you start that’s important, it’s how you finish.”

This season’s 0-4 start wasn’t according to plan. Neither was trailing by two goals in the second half to Owen J. Roberts in their Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal Tuesday night.

But in every case, the Vikings are coming through when it counts most.

Sophomore Bryce Coletta scored the tying and eventual game-winning goals in a 1:30 span and the Vikings didn’t allow the Wildcats a goal in the fourth quarter as No. 1 seed and host Perk Valley prevailed, 8-7 over No. 4 Owen J. Roberts to advance to the PAC championship game.

Perkiomen Valley players celebrate after defeating Owen J. Roberts 8-7 during a PAC boys lacrosse semifinal on May 9 at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)
Perkiomen Valley’s Vance Junker (34) pressures Owen J. Roberts’ Owen Clefisch during a PAC boys lacrosse semifinal on May 9 at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Perk Valley will face reigning champion Spring-Ford – a 16-10 winner over Boyertown in the other semifinal – in the title game on Thursday, 7 p.m., at PV.
Trailing Owen J. Roberts in the PAC semis brought about some uneasy feelings for the Vikings after last year’s matchup was won by OJR, 11-5.

“After we were down – the same thing happened last year, it was like, ‘We can not go through that again,’” senior Vance Junker said. “That really hurt last year. We just had to get through adversity and get through to the final.”

“You love to be able to get back at them,” senior midfielder Matt Horgan (goal) said. “We all knew what the feeling was last year and we couldn’t feel it again. We really had to step up.”

Coletta was the scoring star with four goals and two assists while senior Shea Fusco, who last game surpassed 100 career points, had two goals and an assist. Brad Curci (goal, assist) had a hand in multiple goals and Noah Delo was dominant in the faceoff, going 17-for-19.

Owen J. Roberts (8-11) gave PV a run for its money, acquitting itself much better than their April 13 regular-season meeting when the Vikings rolled in, 12-4.

“We showed a lot of potential,” said OJR rookie head coach Kevin Mo, formerly a standout goalie at Perkiomen Valley (2017). “We lost a lot seniors last year and we had to find ourselves. I think this game we found ourselves and saw what our potential can be. It’s a good starting point for going forward to hopefully get a shot at districts and to keep going.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Will Whitlock shoots and scores against Perkiomen Valley during a PAC boys lacrosse semifinal on May 9 at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)
Perkiomen Valley midfielder Noah Delo, right, carries the ball into the attacking zone after winning a faceoff as Owen J. Roberts’ Torin Whitten defends during a PAC boys lacrosse semifinal on May 9 at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Gabe DellaPenna had two goals and three assists, Will Whitlock scored three and Blake Walther netted a pair for the Wildcats, who are on the bubble for making districts, ranked No. 23 after Tuesday’s action (24 teams qualify).

PV had a huge advantage on time of possession and shots, but the OJR defense, led by Sam Hornak, Colton Loughin and long-stick midfielder Torin Whitten held strong for long periods.

“I think we were getting the stops but they ride hard and they’ve got a lot of passion over there,” Mo said. “Something we would hopefully fix going forward is getting the clears and keep the momentum. We were getting two or three stops in a row but we would throw it away.

“Our ‘D’ did a great job today. (PV) had about 70 percent of possession, definitely swayed in their favor, but our guys didn’t give up at all and our offense was able to capitalize and be efficient with it.”

Freshman goalie Chad Young, making just his second start with starter Brady Callahan out with illness, played a huge part in making it a close contest.

“Chad, our goalie, stepped in today, a freshman, in a big moment came through for us,” Mo said. “It takes a lot of courage to step in there. When I was a freshman here (at PV), we played Spring-Ford in the semis and that was a wide-eyed moment for me. We’ll definitely hope to build on this from here.”

OJR used a three-goal burst led by Whitlock to lead in the second quarter, then took the 5-4 advantage into halftime after Brody Calle found DellaPenna from the backside for a dunked score with 21.2 seconds remaining.

“At halftime we were down one, but we knew we were getting good looks, the shots just weren’t falling,” Horgan said. “It happens, but you’ve gotta step up. I think that’s why our hopes were up, because we were out-shooting them (by a wide margin).”

Perkiomen Valley’s Luke Hanlon (11) tries to clear the ball while being pressured by Owen J. Roberts’ Torin Whitten (27) as Danny Walker chases during a PAC boys lacrosse semifinal on May 9 at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)
Perkiomen Valley’s Ryan Klimek (7) clears the ball as Owen J. Roberts’ Sam Hornak chases during a PAC boys lacrosse semifinal on May 9 at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The Wildcats had their largest lead at 6-4 following a great solo goal from Whitlock after fighting through contact but PV scored the next two to tie it 6-6 with Curci scoring, then setting up Coletta after Horgan stole the ball on an OJR clearance attempt.

DellaPenna won a groundball scramble and found Walther on the doorstep with 13.7 left in the third quarter for a 7-6 OJR lead. It proved to be their last score.
Coletta pounced on a clearance mistake to tie it with 10:59 to go and less than two minutes later raced from the backside and scored from a tight angle for the eventual game-winner with 9:20 to play.

The whole game our shots really weren’t falling. We were off our ‘A’ game,” Coletta said. “At halftime and end of the third quarter, we pushed through adversity and our team did a good job of coming back and getting what we could get.”

The PV defense, which got key contributions from Junker, Braden Nester, Tyler Henn, Drew Donato, Ryan Klimek and James Herb, didn’t allow OJR a goal in the final quarter.

A strong finish indeed.

But not quite the finish the Vikings will be seeking. That comes in two days in their rematch with the Rams.

“We started off 0-4 so midseason we were taking any wins (we could get),” said Junker. “Now, I’m not satisfied at all. We’ve gotta keep winning. I think we’re back to our true form.”

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