Boyertownâ s Maria Garofolo, left, and Spring-Fordâ s Megan Giannopoulos battle for the ball in the first half Wednesday. (John Strickler/The Mercury)
BOYERTOWN — Spring-Ford threw everything it had at Boyertown in the second half of Wednesday night's girls soccer match at Memorial Stadium as if it were the final minutes of a championship contest ... not just for a few minutes or even 10 or 20, but for pretty much the entire 40 minutes.But the Bears' defense hung tough for a 1-0 win in the battle for first place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference's Liberty Division. Olivia Frazier scored midway through the first half on an assist from Emily Diehl as Boyertown (9-0-2, 11-0-2) took over first place with two matches to go. Spring-Ford (9-1-1, 12-1-1) had five corner kicks in the second half and opportunities around the Bear goal right to the final minute.
Boyertown's Emily Diehl (15) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game's only goal Wednesday in a 1-0 win over Spring-Ford. (John Strickler/The Mercury)
"They're a good team,' said Bear coach Bill Goddard, whose team tied the Rams at 1-1 the first time around. "They're a quality side. They've got a lot of talent. Give our kids credit. We bend, but we don't break. We're a pretty good counter-attacking team, we defend extremely well, and we've got good goalkeeping.'The opening 20 minutes were back and forth between the two teams who had already clinched a Final Four spot, with Frazier putting a couple of shots on goal for the hosts and Aley Kate McKinley generating a pair of attempts for the Rams, including a hard shot on a free kick that went right to Bear keeper Sarafina Valenti.Then Boyertown scored one second short of the midway point of the half when Diehl crossed a pass from the right to Frazier, who headed it down into the left corner for the score.
Then the Rams took control from the start of the second half and did not relinquish it except for a minute here and there."We had a tenacious mindset,' said McKinley.Megan Giannopoulos got off a couple of shots early in the half for the visitors, whose defenders constantly intercepted Boyertown attempts to get past midfield and put the ball back into the attacking half.But while the Rams did possess the ball in or around the Bear box much of the time, the Boyertown defense came up with block after block on pass and shot attempts.
Spring-Ford's Brianna Cirino, left, shelds Boyertown's Lily Fanok during Wednesday's PAC-10 girls soccer match. (John Strickler/The Mercury)
"That's something we spend a lot of time on,' said Goddard.Spring-Ford had one of its best scoring chances with nine minutes left when a second straight corner kick went off the hands of the keeper and a scramble in front of the net ensued, but the defense was able to boot the ball out of danger.The Bears did have a couple of brief chances, one on a counter-attack breakaway by Taylor Sassaman and another on one of their two corner kicks of the half with three minutes to go.But Spring-Ford got the ball down to the other end again and Giannopoulos shot one from the right wing that sailed just over the crossbar with a minute left before Boyertown finally gained control and ran out the final 30 seconds.The three Spring-Ford captains were understandably upset after their first loss of the season, but looked at the match as a learning experience."It's a tough loss,' said McKinley. "We just needed to put our opportunities away and put out more energy in the first half. This is just fuel. I'm really proud of how we played in the second half.'"I'm proud of every one of the players out there,' added Kaitlyn Dougherty. "This is just a learning experience. We got our one loss and we're not getting any more.'Spring-Ford finished with an 8-4 advantage in shots and 7-3 margin in corner kicks. In fact, the Bears did not put any shots on goal in the second half, but the one midway through the first turned out to be enough."We didn't mark up and we'll learn from it,' said the Rams' Sarah Hancock. "We have to relax in front of the goal and tap it in. We just needed a few more minutes. We just needed to get it done in the first half.'Goddard was pleased with his team's effort that kept the ball out of the goal despite the sustained Ram attack."The effort our girls gave was just incredible,' he said. "It was like a playoff game. They kept giving second and third efforts. They threw the kitchen sink at us. It was a good test for us. I'm sure we're going to see them again.'