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Shutouts send Perkiomen Valley, Upper Perkiomen into PAC girls soccer title game

Perkiomen Valley players celebrate Nicole Bottomley-Lytle's goal in the first half against Owen J. Roberts in a PAC semifinal Tuesday at Owen J. Roberts. (Austin Hertzog - MediaNews Group)

BUCKTOWN >> Perkiomen Valley girls soccer coach Kim Paulus has long been known as a defense-first coach. 

So it was little surprise to hear her message right before the start of the second half of Tuesday’s Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal against Owen J. Roberts,

“I want that shutout,” the 18th year head coach said.

Her Vikings team apparently wanted it just as much. Perkiomen Valley put together the defensive and all-around performance they would have dreamed of to unseat the two-time defending champion Owen J. Roberts in a 3-0 victory on Wildcat North.

Upper Perkiomen may have heard a similar request from coach Mike Freed considering its method of shutting down Spring-Ford in a 2-0 win that earned the Indians a return trip to the PAC final, which will be held Thursday, 7 p.m. at Owen J. Roberts.

Perkiomen Valley’s Annabelle Booker puts in a tackle against Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Thompson during a PAC semifinal Tuesday at Owen J. Roberts. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Upper Perkiomen’s Erin Edwards (15) and Spring-Ford’s Meg Kurian (1) compete for the ball in the first half of their PAC semifinal Tuesday at Owen J Roberts. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

After the final whistle, Perk Valley senior midfielder Nicole Bottomley-Lytle, who scored her team’s first goal from distance 18 minutes in, chose a fitting word to sum up the Vikings’ feelings.

“Accomplished,” she said.

For good reason. Beyond reaching the conference championship for the first time in program history, Perk Valley (14-3-2) also broke school records for wins (14) and shutouts (11) in a season Tuesday.

To do it against Owen J. Roberts (13-5), winners of four of the past five PAC titles and 14 overall, was all the more significant. 

“We’ve never beat OJR by this much. They’ve destroyed us every single year,” said PV senior right back Annabelle Booker. 

PV, which split with OJR in the regular season, led 2-0 after 24 minutes, tallying its second goal through junior Ashley Pickles, who knocked in a shot in the penalty area after Bottomley-Lytle got the first touch on a long Emma Stankunas free kick.

It stayed that way through the second half as the PV back line of seniors Booker, Stankunas and Haley Moyer and sophomore Madison Lindsay, plus defensive midfielder Maddie O’Donnell, limited OJR and standout senior forward Alexa Vogelman. 

Owen J. Roberts’ Alexa Vogelman tries to change directions as she’s defended by Perkiomen Valley’s Emma Stankunas during a PAC semifinal Tuesday at Owen J. Roberts. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Vogelman, who scored four on PV in their last matchup, did generate two great scoring chances, the first with three minutes left in the first half when she rattled the near post and later in the second half required a last-ditch slide tackle from Booker with PV keeper Olivia Hulayew pulled out of position. 

The Vikings put the finishing touch on their monumental win with 2:33 to play when dynamic freshman forward Giavanna Marciano outraced OJR keeper Colby Wasson to a long ball inside the 6-yard box and popped the ball up in a collision, leading to an own goal and 3-0 lead.

“We knew from last year that our team was going to be good,” Booker said. “Every single person adds to the team. No one wants to stop.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Giavanna Marciano (2) controls the ball against Owen J. Roberts defender Meryn Primanti during a PAC semifinal Tuesday at Owen J. Roberts. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

For a No. 1 seed who entered Tuesday undefeated, Upper Perk managed to find a chip for its shoulders. 

“It was a redemption game for us. We tied them 0-0 and it was the only blemish on our record,” said senior captain Kyra Lesko.

At 16-0-1, that lonely one came against Spring-Ford, a scoreless draw on Sept. 28.

“We were mad. Yeah, we have an undefeated season, but we still had a tie. We want them all to be wins,” said UP senior Mary Kate Sitko. “We wanted to come back. Last year we played them in the semifinal game so we wanted to beat them again to earn the chance to win the title.”

The Indians didn’t need to wait long to get on the scoreboard. Forward Sarah Fisher pressed Spring-Ford center back Tori McPoyle and blocked a clearance, rebounding it behind the Rams’ high line. Fisher ran on for a breakaway, blasting a shot from 15 yards into the left side of goal at the 33:11 mark of the first half.

Scoring chances were not plentiful either way with Spring-Ford’s PAC-best goals against record factoring in. On the other end, the Rams have struggled to generate goals – Giana DeFlavia did hit the crossbar on a second-half free kick – and the Upper Perk back four of Lauren Powers, Elizabeth Proctor, Erin Edwards and Elyse Kreiner earned high praise from coach Freed while sophomore goalkeeper Ava Long made five saves. Edwards made a goal-line save to preserve the shutout.

Spring-Ford senior goalkeeper Erika Eickhoff made 10 saves, but could do little on junior midfielder Megan Cairns’ swivel and shot from distance that was placed well into the top right of goal to seal the game with 20 minutes to play. Fisher nabbed an assist on Cairns’ score.

“She doesn’t score a lot – last year she scored often, but not as much this year – so that will boost her confidence a lot,” Sitko said of Cairns’ goal.

Perkiomen Valley and Upper Perkiomen were able to achieve the same goals – shutouts, redemption, advancement, you name it – in Tuesday’s semifinals. 

That luxury leaves town Thursday when Perk Valley aims for its first PAC title and Upper Perk tries to win its first crown since 2008.

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