ROYERSFORD — Any match now could be the last one of the season for the Spring-Ford girls soccer team and the Rams made sure that it wasn't in Tuesday night's District 1-AAA playback contest.
They scored early while dominating the opening 30 minutes of play in a 2-0 win over Council Rock South at Coach McNelly Stadium, sending them into a match on Thursday at Strath Haven — a 1-0 overtime winner against Pennsbury — that will decide the district's fifth and final spot in the PIAA Class AAA Tournament.
Aley Kate McKinley scored in the 10th minute off a pass from Gabrielle Vagnozzi, who scored the other goal 13 minutes into the second half on an assist by Taylor Newhart. Goalkeeper Jenna Griggs came up with two big saves for the Rams (20-2-1). The loss ended the season for the Golden Hawks (13-6-2).
"Our team has so much heart and desire to win,' said senior forward McKinley. "We come out and say this will not be our last game.'
"We still know we can make it to states,' Vagnozzi added. "Winning the PAC-10 for the first time was the greatest feeling ever. We want to have that feeling again.'
The eighth-seeded Rams scored with 30:31 remaining in the first half when sophomore midfielder Vagnozzi pushed a pass ahead to McKinley, who drilled a shot from the right wing into the far corner.
Spring-Ford had two other good chances early, but South goalkeeper Allison Taub came up with a couple of diving stops to keep it a one-goal game.
"We knew we needed to come out with energy and come out quick,' said McKinley. "We were awarded a home game and we couldn't pass up the opportunity. We're undefeated at home.'
"We were passing well,' said Vagnozzi. "We definitely had a lot of communication.'
Then the Golden Hawks finally generated a threat with 12 minutes left in the half when Lindsay Hirsh beat the defense and went in on Griggs. But sophomore back Newhart broke up the play and cleared the ball out of danger.
The visitors kept up the pressure the rest of the half, but Hirsh couldn't control a pass into the box, a shot went wide left of the goal, and Griggs made a leaping deflection of a shot that was headed toward the upper corner of the goal.
The Golden Hawks took command again at the beginning of the second half and Griggs came through with an almost identical save 10 minutes in to protect the lead.
Then Newhart broke down the right flank and passed to Vagnozzi, who took the pass in stride and knocked in the insurance goal with 27:07 remaining.
After that, the Rams didn't allow South to get much of anything going by employing more good defense and careful play by the offense to prevent quick counter-attacks.
"I really believe in our back four (Newhart, Julie Pennington, Laura Suero, Kaitlyn Dougherty),' said McKinley. "They really took control of their forwards.'
Golden Hawk coach Kim Francis thought her team came out flat and recovered too late.
"I thought we bounced back in the second half for sure,' she said. "Their keeper made a couple upper 90 saves. If we would have showed up in the first half, it could have been different.'
Next the Rams, who earlier made their first PAC-10 Final Four appearance and captured their first title, will try to qualify for state play.
"We're making history left and right,' McKinley said.
Spring-Ford finished with a 6-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-2 edge in corner kicks. ... Francis was especially impressed by the play of Vagnozzi. "She's got some pace,' said the CR South coach. "She's got a heck of a left foot. It took a while for us to adjust to it.' ... Sophie Murphy scored for Strath Haven, which will host Thursday's playback final due having the higher seed (third).