Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville’s Lauren Benner (2) is congratulated by teammates Kaitlyn Casiano (9) and Cecilia Knaub (10) after scoring one
Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville's Lauren Benner (2) is congratulated by teammates Kaitlyn Casiano (9) and Cecilia Knaub (10) after scoring one of her three goals against Gwynedd Mercy. (Barry Taglieber)

NEWTOWN - Phoenixville's girls soccer team advanced to the District 1-AA finals for the first time with a 3-2 victory over Gwynedd Mercy Monday night at Council Rock North High School's Walt Snyder Stadium.

Lauren Benner scored all three goals for the sixth-seeded Phantoms, who will play top-seeded Villa Joseph Marie Wednesday evening at 5 p.m. back at the same site for the district championship.

First-year head coach Tim Raub, a former assistant coach at Boyertown; and assistant coaches Ashley Habbel, a former star forward at Phoenixville and the University of Pittsburgh; Sean Lawlor and Joe Youngblood have directed the contingent.

Benner now has 20 goals and three assists for the season. She has scored five goals in the last two playoff games with the hat trick coming against the second-seeded Monarchs.

Photo by Barry Taglieber Lauren Benner (2) gives chase along with Gwynedd Mercy’s Erica Decandido (34) and Kylie Tomlinson (22) during the District
Photo by Barry Taglieber Lauren Benner (2) gives chase along with Gwynedd Mercy's Erica Decandido (34) and Kylie Tomlinson (22) during the District 1-AA girls soccer semifinals. (Barry Taglieber)

After a scoreless first half, Phoenixville (11-7-1) held 1-0 and 2-1 leads against Gwynedd, only to have the contest tied up. Benner then outdueled two defenders to score the game-winner with just 1:06 remaining in regulation time.

Margaret Jones and Theresa Webster scored goals for the Monarchs, who closed out their season with a 12-7 mark.

Bri Cooley made six saves in goal for the Phantoms while Laura Lutes had five stops for the Monarchs. Each side had eight shots on goal with Phoenixville holding a 3-2 edge in corner kicks.

The district championship game will be a rematch of last year's one semifinal in which Phoenixville fell to the Jems, 3-0, in the Phantoms' initial trip to the district semis. Villa Joseph Marie then defeated Gwynedd on penalty kicks in the district title clash to earn the lone berth to the PIAA State Tournament in Class AA.


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Cecilia Knaub helped figure in Benner scoring the first goal in the 42nd minute. Katie Fritsche assisted Benner on the second goal with a crossing pass from the left side in the 72nd minute.

The Phantoms have a young team that starts just three seniors in Cooley, midfielder Gia Tedesco and forward Hayley Riley. There are five other seniors on the Phoenixville roster. Nicole Lemon saw some playing time against the Monarchs.


Photo by Barry Taglieber Cecilia Knaub (top left), Kaitlyn Casiano (9) and Katie Fritsche (4) vie for possession in a large group along with Gwynedd
Photo by Barry Taglieber Cecilia Knaub (top left), Kaitlyn Casiano (9) and Katie Fritsche (4) vie for possession in a large group along with Gwynedd Mercy's Emily Sullivan (28) and Emily Kennedy (33). (Barry Taglieber)

Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville freshman forward Dakota Graham (11) moves around Gwynedd Mercy’s Rachel Koller (26) during the District 1-AA
Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville freshman forward Dakota Graham (11) moves around Gwynedd Mercy's Rachel Koller (26) during the District 1-AA girls soccer semifinals at Council Rock North High School on Oct. 28. (Barry Taglieber)

Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville’s Nicole Lemon (14, right) chases a loose ball along with Gwynedd Mercy’s Theresa Webster (14) and Erica
Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville's Nicole Lemon (14, right) chases a loose ball along with Gwynedd Mercy's Theresa Webster (14) and Erica Decandido (34). (Barry Taglieber)

Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville’s Lauren Benner (2) gets set to kick the soccer ball while being defended by Gwynedd Mercy’s Mary Claire
Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville's Lauren Benner (2) gets set to kick the soccer ball while being defended by Gwynedd Mercy's Mary Claire Casey (32) and Carolyn Ewell (18). (Barry Taglieber)