RED HILL >> It deserved to be settled head-to-head.
Boyertown’s field hockey team suffered its lone conference loss against Spring-Ford, 4-2, on September 13.
But when the Bears evened the score with an identical 4-2 victory of their own on October 5, the series demanded a rubber match.
In Tuesday’s PAC Final Four semifinal at Upper Perkiomen High School, No. 1 seed Boyertown claimed the rubber match, topping Spring-Ford 4-1 in a game that showed the youthful Bears to be deserving of their top seed.
The win sent Boyertown into Thursday’s championship game with No. 3 Methacton, a similar 4-1 winner over Upper Perkiomen in the other semifinal.
“I was a little nervous about being the top seed,” admitted Boyertown coach Alicia Terrizzi. “We’re a young team, we’re playing five freshmen.
“A well-placed loss is good for a team. We took that experience (the September loss to Spring-Ford) and got better.”
The contest doubled as a rematch of the 2022 PAC Championship, won by Boyertown 3-2.
At least two of the freshmen Terrizzi mentioned played integral roles in Tuesday’s victory.
Boyertown controlled play throughout the decisive first half, but it wasn’t until a long outlet pass found freshman Kendal Gilbert toward the end of the first quarter than the Bears were able to draw first blood.
Gilbert’s centering pass resulted in a foul, and Peyton Shellaway made no mistake on the ensuing penalty stroke for a 1-0 Bears lead with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, Gilbert got loose down the right side again and sent another ball towards the net, where Maya Brunner finished off a scramble to double Boyertown’s lead.
“It’s teamwork,” said Gilbert. “In practice we talk about looking for space. The defense does a great job finding us that spade with their passes.”
Elise Eves fired through a screen for Boyertown’s third tally with 5:38 until halftime.
After Maddie Friend got SF on the board with 3:25 left in the third quarter, Eves’ second goal rounded out the scoring for Boyertown (16-3).
The Rams’ best chances came in the early going, but freshman goalie Addison Galianese stood out for Boyertown, with seven total saves.
Galianese turned away consecutive opportunities on restarts, taking care to kick each shot past the approaching Rams forwards looking for put-back opportunities.
“Our defense does an amazing job boxing out, giving me a chance to kick those saves out,” said Galianese. “Gigi Maloney, for one, is great at finding the outlet, getting us going on offense.”
In the other semifinal, early goals from Lizzie Mun and Adriana Hopple staked Methacton to a 2-0 lead, and the Warriors staved off a late Upper Perk comeback, capping the win with Giada Catoia’s late penalty stroke.
Upper Perk closed within two goals at the 5:05 mark of the fourth, after Methacton’s Renee Blake extended the Warriors’ lead to 3-0.
But Methacton coach Amanda Parrezzi attributed the win to her team’s cool heads.
“Team-first mentality,” said Parrezzi. “No panic. We have leadership, players with playoff experience — they don’t get caught up with chaos, they adapt and change to what our opponents present.”
Both Spring-Ford (13-6) and Upper Perkiomen (14-5) will continue their season in the DIstrict 1 playoffs starting next week, Spring-Ford in the 3A bracket and Upper Perkiomen in 2A. Each school is poised to host an opening-round game.
Meanwhile, Boyertown and Methacton turn their attention to another rematch. The Bears seek to repeat as PAC champions after breaking a 20-season drought with last year’s title.
Methacton and Boyertown met twice during the regular season, with the Bears sweeping the set by scores of 2-1 and 3-1.
“The biggest significance Thursday will be momentum, long-term,” said Methacton’s Parrezzi. “Playing for a PAC title has its own importance; every kid wants that opportunity.
“We and Boyertown will both be high seeds. We’ll have a long layoff. The psychological advantage will carry through.”
“There are some really skilled hockey players in the PAC,” added Terrizzi. “It’s a testament to these kids, all these coaches. All three teams (Methacton, Spring-Ford, and Boyertown) could legitimately be in the [3A] state tournament.
“It’s going to be exciting to play in this game on Thursday. I just think it’ll be exciting to watch a great field hockey game.”