BUCKTOWN >> The Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford girls soccer teams did not get to settle the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship on the field.
Instead, the Wildcats and Rams found a way around that. They upped the stakes in the process, too.
With their respective seasons on the line in a District 1 Class 4A quarterfinal Thursday night, the co-champions of the pandemic-altered PAC season met for the third time and the margins were as thin as the first two meetings.
After cancelling each other out for more than 100 minutes, Spring-Ford finally settled the score when Ally McVey finished from close range at the near post with 7:34 left in the second overtime to give the No. 5 seed Rams a 1-0 victory over the No. 4 Wildcats to advance to the District 1-4A semifinals.
“That was insane,” said junior center back Liv Curry, who led the Rams’ shutout performance.. “That was like our PAC championship game. That was amazing. Knowing that our season was on the line, we put everything out there. The fact that they are our rivals in the league just made us want to work even harder.”
Spring-Ford (12-1-1) advances to face No. 1 seed Downingtown East (10-0) in the semifinals next Tuesday. Downingtown East topped Hatboro-Horsham 2-0 Thursday.
Spring-Ford came to life in overtime and unlocked the winning moment when senior midfielder Hope Flanegin won the ball after a defensive header 45 yards from goal and initiated a counter attack with a through ball for Emily Higgins down the left side. Higgins hit an early lofted ball toward the far post that forced OJR goalkeeper Sam Hughes into a full-stretch tip that fell to the right side. Claire Lanzisera was first to the parry and centered to McVey at the near post for the game-winner in double OT.
In a third meeting – they split in the regular season (OJR 2-1 on Oct. 5; S-F 3-2 OT on Oct. 17) – Spring-Ford and OJR knew everything their opponent was going to throw at them.
For McVey, it was all about keeping the faith.
“Not going to lie, it gets a little frustrating sometimes,” the junior said of facing such a familiar opponent. “But you just have to be patient because we knew we were going to get it the whole time. Just keep grinding, and it came there at the end. We stuck with it and we finished it out which is really great to see.”
It took two halves and two overtimes because of two teams so evenly matched, especially in the back. The OJR back four of Morgan Weaver, Emily Sands, Caleigh Bold and McKayla Farrow and goalkeeper Hughes (6 saves) did well in consistently limiting the Rams’ chances.
On the other side, the Rams’ back four of Curry, Caitlin Norwood, Laura Norwood and Raven Wellington rarely put a foot wrong while goalkeeper Riley Wallace handled everything that she faced (7 saves).
Curry was the Player of the Match, the Wisconsin recruit nullifying OJR’s goal-making sophomore forward Alexa Vogelman all game while bringing some dynamism into the midfield at times in support of midfielders Molly Thomas, Flanegin and Reese Kershner.
“No one was getting by her. She was just a stone wall back there,” McVey said of Curry.
The match lacked for atmosphere in regulation with limited attendance, including no away fans (though a number of Spring-Ford supporters lined the north-side fence), and a couple teams waged in a stalemate.
“Coming in, we had a large conversation about our fans not being allowed to be here and our message was, don’t let this be the game that the seniors go out on with their parents not even able to be in the stands,” said Spring-Ford head coach Tim Raub. “We weren’t ready to go yet. It wasn’t time.”
Spring-Ford managed only 3 shots on goal in regulation while OJR managed six and were closest to winning it in the first 80. Sophomore midfielder Gabby Koury’s low shot forced Wallace’s into a diving save to her right with 33 minutes left in the second half and Vogelman blazed a shot just over the crossbar with 6:43 in regulation.
“We had to refocus going into overtime, have a talk to make sure everyone’s mind was right. That was our third or fourth time and overtime this year and they sensed the urgency,” said Raub.
Both benches brought the energy in overtime and it elevated the game, but Spring-Ford seized control in overtime. Higgins arguably should have ended it sooner with a wide-open shot from 12 yards at 11:50 of the first overtime but it was right at Hughes.
But like McVey preached, patience paid off in the second overtime.
Owen J. Roberts’ season ends at 10-2-1 after winning a second straight PAC championship. The Wildcats graduate captains Sarah Kopec, Emily Sands, goalkeeper Hughes and reserves Olivia Kqira and Kailey McGinley.
Spring-Ford was thrilled to come out on top, but wouldn’t have minded the meeting with their rival to come later in the tournament.
“It was an unfortunate draw,” said Raub. Everybody knows the power rankings were a momentous failure this year. It just so happens two of the best teams drew each other earlier than it should have been. This could have been a final, a semi-final. You have to beat everybody this year anyway. Only the district champion advances
“We go on and Owen J. goes home and I’m sure that’s a tough pill to swallow. And it’s tough for the PAC because we were two of the teams capable of representing the district.”
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