BUCKTOWN >> Its defensive prowess has been a matter of record all season long.
So it was a bit of an adjustment for the Owen J. Roberts field hockey team Friday when it faced Souderton in the District 1 Class 3A quarterfinals at Wildcat South. The hosts found themselves in an offense-dominated matchup with the sixth-seeded Indians, in contrast to a regular season where their highest goal yield was three in games with Perkiomen Valley and Plymouth Whitemarsh.
Happily for Owen J. Roberts, its offense was equal to the task. It came on strong in the second half, overtaking the Big Red for a 5-4 victory that sent the defending champion Wildcats back into the district semifinals and the state tournament.
Scoring back-to-back goals, the third-seeded ‘Cats reversed Souderton’s lead in the game’s final 22 minutes. The offense then pressed the action at the visitors’ end after the defense left the Indians empty on two direct plays inside the three-minute mark.
“One of our goals this season was to get to states,” Jenna Kirby, Owen J’s scoring leader with two goals, said. “We didn’t want to go into playbacks.”
OJR (20-2) started the game out with the upper hand, Kirby scoring off a corner play with a Souderton defender hitting the ball at 19:39 in the first half. The Big Red answered at 17:28 with Anna Gwiadzinski converting off a penalty corner.
Rylee Laloup got OJR the lead back with her goal off a scramble in front of the Big Red cage at 13:32. The Indians then surged to a 3-2 lead in the half with Courtney Kenah completing a fast break at 9:25 and Ange Borisow hitting off a corner 2:35 before the break.
“We know they’re highly-skilled and speedy,” head coach Amy Hoffman said of Souderton. “But our girls are resilient. We knew they’d get it at the end.”
An exchange of goals in a 1-1/2 minute span of the second half – Roberts from Julia Lamb at 27:34, Souderton from Kenah at 26:07 – kept the Big Red in front 4-3. But Owen J. pulled even at 21:50 with Kirby scoring off a corner, and Maddi Koury netted the ultimate game-winner on a redirect at 10:19.
“Maddi is very quick getting her stick on the ball,” Hoffman said. “There were maybe one, two goals where we screwed up. We talked with our back about staying deeper.”
The Wildcats had a 14-8 advantage in corners over the Indians, who saw an apparent goal around the seven-minute mark called back for not being touched inside the circle.
“We have a lot of people who can take corners,” Kirby said. “The three main people are (Raina) Smolij, (Julia) Lamb and me.”
Owen J. outshot Souderton 25-11 on the afternoon. Olivia LeClaire was credited with an assist, and goalie Cayden Jarvis with six saves.
Jordan Michalak had 14 stops for Souderton, which will look to keep its post-season run going in playbacks.
“It’s very exciting to go back to states,” Hoffman said. “Tuesday, we’ll start working to see if we can get to (district) finals.”