RED HILL — More often than not, teams in post-season play know little or nothing about their opponents. But Upper Perkiomen had scouted Marple Newtown prior to Wednesday night's girls soccer District 1-AA opening-round match and prepared a game plan that was executed to near perfection.
With it, the Indians created good scoring opportunities almost from the opening whistle and Erica Greco and Kayla Smith each converted two of them into goals for a 4-0 win and a first-ever trip to a district semifinal.
Upper Perkiomen (14-6) will meet top-seeded Villa Joseph Marie, a 4-1 winner over Pope John Paul II, on Monday at a neutral site and time to be determined.
The Indians consistently kept the Tiger defense busy by using their speed and hitting people down the middle with long passes without going offside, a strategy that created breakaways time and again.
"We did scout them,' said senior forward Greco, who scored the second and fourth goals. "This isn't our normal routine. We usually try to spring passes together. But it was good. My primary job was to run up and down the field and get anything that they knocked over.'
"We usually like to play through the midfield,' added Upper Perk coach Mike Freed. "We knew they had the offside trap. We knew we were going to have to adjust to how they played.'
The fourth-seeded Indians, who had dropped a 3-1 match to Marple Newtown in last year's first round, went on top just 1:40 into the match when Smith controlled a ball that had been broken free near the top of the box and took it down the middle for a shot and a score.
Greco scored in the 17th minute when Smith fed her a long, perfect lead pass down the middle and she dribbled to the left wing for a shot and a 2-0 advantage.
Then Smith scored four minutes later when she was fouled on an open break through the left wing and converted a penalty kick. The Indians wrapped up the scoring with 14 minutes remaining in the match when Tiger keeper Amanda Goodyear made a diving stop on a blast by Mackenzie Gebhardt, but Greco was right there on the left post to knock in the rebound.
"I just try to run up and down the field and feed anything I get into the back of the net and it worked out well,' Greco added.
The fifth-seeded Tigers (10-6) - who had eight corner kicks to none for the hosts - were not without their scoring opportunities, but Upper Perk goalkeeper Maggie Ortlip came through with some big saves in the second half.
One came early in the second half when the Indians tried to blast the ball away from the front of the goal, but it was deflected right back toward Ortlip, who made a quick-reaction stop. Marple also had a couple of quick shots from a scrum right out in front midway through the half, but Ortlip was right in the middle of it to make the saves.
Then the senior keeper preserved the shutout when Jenna Wismer tried to rip one into the right corner with 15 seconds left by making a diving, two-handed punch to deflect the blast.
The Indians wound up with a 12-8 margin in shots on goal, with Goodyear and Ortlip each making eight saves.
Afterwards, Freed gave credit to his JV players for helping the varsity prepare for the match.
"Our JV's deserve huge props,' he said. "We took about a half an hour and trained the JV's to simulate that (the offside trap). I think we got caught in it (only) three times the entire night.'
And the varsity used what it had learned and practiced to get the win.
"They've been playing varsity since they were sophomores,' Freed added. "They adapted. I'm so happy for them. They've put in a lot of time and effort to get to this point.'
The 2008 Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Upper Perk squad had won a District 1-AAA match to advance to the quarterfinals, but the Indians had never been in the final four of district play before.
"This is our first time,' said Greco. "We played them last year and they beat us (in the Tigers' first-ever post-season appearance). I was thinking this could be the last time we played together.'
But it wasn't, as the Indians will have at least one more match as they try to earn the district's only Class-AA berth in the PIAA Tournament.