HORSHAM >> Nothing separated the Archbishop Wood and Lansdale Catholic girls soccer teams in the Philadelphia Catholic League standings entering their matchup Thursday, the sides tied for first place after each won their first five games.
And for almost all of regulation, nothing separated the Vikings and Crusaders on the turf on a sunny afternoon at the Ukrainian American Sports Center.
But late in the second half, Wood’s Ava DeGeorge created enough space at the top of the 18-yard box and opted to try to put an end to the scoreless stalemate.
“I was just thinking ‘Get it on net,’” she said. “Hopefully it’ll go in.”
DeGeorge’s left-footed shot between three LC defenders lofted towards the goal and into the far right corner, delivering the Vikings a 1-0 victory.
“Overtimes definitely would have been tough cause it was an intense game,” Archbishop Wood coach Tom DeGeorge said. “And I thought Ava had a lot of opportunities early on, I felt she wasn’t really reaching the net later on I felt it was too much so we just trying to get that one-more opportunity and 30 seconds left I guess it worked out.”
In a tight contest befitting a battle to sit atop the Catholic League, each side had their opportunities to break through – both hitting shots off the goal frame – before Ava DeGeorge took a pass from Mia Casey and let go her shot from just outside the box to tally the day’s lone goal.
“Mia played a great ball back to me,” Ava DeGeorge said. “She laid it back and I took a touch and shot it.”
Lansdale Catholic pressed for an equalizer in the final moments, putting a threatening ball into the box, but Wood goalkeeper Lauren Greer thwarted the chance by coming off her line to knock it away as Vikings held on.
“To be honest, I think the play broke down,” said LC coach Bree Benedict of Wood’s winning goal. “Unfortunately we had a player go down at midfield, that player was responsible for a lot of middle-area stuff which I think would have clogged up that gap. If you looked at it, the middle was just wide open.
“It was just an unfortunate situation we had somebody go down and they took advantage of it. And I would have done the same thing but when you look at it we were obviously down a player in an essential position in the field that opened up for Ava.”
The victory for Archbishop Wood (9-2-1, 6-0-0 PCL ) was its sixth straight over the Crusaders, a streak that includes a pair of wins in the PCL semifinals – last year the Vikings edged LC 3-2 in overtime to reach the final where it beat Archbishop Ryan 3-1 for Wood’s first league title since 2016.
The Vikings now sit three points ahead of Lansdale Catholic (7-3-0, 5-1-0) with both having two PCL games remaining. Top two teams earn byes into the semis in the league’s postseason.
“We talked about finishing first, we talk about winning the PCL and they’re all steps,” Tom DeGeorge said. “So far everything’s working good. They’re a good team, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see them again in the playoffs.”
The next game for each team is in PCL play with Lansdale Catholic hosting Bonner & Prendergast 3:45 p.m. Wednesday while Archbishop Wood visits Conwell-Egan 3:45 p.m. Thursday.
“I think Wood challenged us a lot as far as our fitness goes,” Benedict said. “It’s definitely something we have to get better at for us to compete against these high-level teams. We can’t be subbing as much as we were subbing, we have to have some sort of consistency.
“I think we have to be able to find feet a little bit better, we were forced into a lot of long balls because our legs were tired.”
In the first half, a ball by Wood into the box eluded the Crusaders keeper and found its way to Macie Kennedy but her shot hit off the goal frame.
After the break, the Vikings knocked another shot off the crossbar while Sophia Topakas touched the ball by the goalie but LC’s Casey Sabolsky cleared it away from the front of goal.
“You’re happy when you’re creating chances right?” Tom DeGeorge said. “You got to worry when you’re playing and you’re not getting chances, now you’re trying to fix things. But we were creating chances and it’s like you got to say hey one more chance, one more chance. And then luckily with 30 seconds left we get that one more chance.”
The Crusaders created a few scoring opportunities on second-half free kicks. Olivia Boccella put one on frame but having it saved by Greer while hitting another off the top of the crossbar.
“I think we definitely had our moments where we controlled the game, we just were unlucky to not put it in the back of the net,” Benedict said. “Liv had a couple, I think she had one that rattled the crossbar off a set piece so just maybe an inch off. But I think we’re going to take it and be confident about it cause we’ll see this team again or we’ll see teams just like it so it’ll help us against them.”
The possible need for overtime, however, was ended by Ava DeGeorge, as the Vikings’ keeping the ball in the LC half of the field paid off when Casey found the junior for her go-ahead strike.
“I was getting a little worried there,” Ava DeGeorge said. “But we broke through.”
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