NEWTOWN — Phoenixville is trying to build a tradition in girls soccer.
It took a big step toward doing that this year while advancing all the way to Wednesday night's District 1-AA championship match.
But the Phantoms were up against a team that already has quite a history in Villa Joseph Marie — winners of seven state titles and a co-championship since 1996. And the Jems were a little too much for the Phantoms as they captured their third straight district championship with a 2-1 win at Council Rock North's Walt Snyder Stadium.
Cecilia Knaub scored for Phoenixville (11-8-1) with 24 minutes to go, but that came after a goal early in the first half by Kristen Glaum and one even earlier in the second half by Alexa Fabbri. The loss ended the season for the Phantoms while the Jems (15-2) will open state play on Tuesday against District 12 champion Archbishop Wood, a 13-0 winner over Rush Arts.
"I can't fault the girls on the effort,' said Phantom first-year head coach Tim Raub. "We threw everything we had at them. This team (Villa) has tradition and history. They know what it takes. The kids just battled. I'm so proud of them. They should keep their heads high.'
"To come this far, and being underdogs in the PAC-10, is really an accomplishment,' said Phoenixville senior captain Gia Tedesco. "I'm really pleased.'
Top-seeded Villa, the state runner-up in 2011, took the lead when Kristen Glaum drilled one in from in front off a short pass from Taylor Stevens in the ninth minute — the same combination that had opened the scoring in Tuesday night's 2-0 semifinal win over Upper Perkiomen.
Then the Jems doubled their advantage less than five minutes into the second half when Stevens perfectly placed a corner kick from the right into a crowd in front of the net and Fabbri headed it home.
"We knew No. 23 (Fabbri) was dangerous', said Raub. "They do a great job of setting picks for her. I think that's her 10th goal off corners this year.'
Despite those early mishaps, the sixth-seeded Phantoms — who had beaten the no. 3 and no. 2 seeds along the way — bounced back to play evenly with the Jems the rest of both halves.
"Those early goals are always a tough one to stomach,' said Knaub. "But we continued to fight. There's nothing we haven't seen this season.
"We know they're a good team. We had to be really disciplined and wait for our chances to come. Sometimes you just come up short.'
Phoenixville's successful scoring opportunity began with a long pass from the back by Kaitlyn Casiano that resulted in a corner kick. That kick from the right by Dakota Graham was knocked out into the middle by the Jems to Step Schellberg, who passed to Knaub for a shot and the score with 23:49 left in the match.
But Villa recovered and did a good job of controlling the ball and running down the clock over the final 10 minutes to wrap up the win.
The Phantoms finished with a 10-9 edge in shots. Phantom senior goalkeeper Bri Cooley made four saves while Jems keeper Caroline Gray stopped eight shots on goal. Villa had a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.
The loss took nothing away from the fine season by the Phantoms, who had advanced to the district semifinal last year before falling 3-0 to the Jems.
"We figured out each team's weaknesses and took advantage of them,' said Tedesco. "We have strengths and speed both in the middle and outside. We kept shooting and believing in ourselves.'
"We had great senior leadership, great on the field and off the field,' said junior Knaub. "We look good. We have a lot of young talent.'
And Raub hopes to keep building a tradition when most of the Phantoms return next year.
"All four freshmen (Casiano, Graham, Julia Brown, and Sophia Kopko) played tonight,' he added. "We've got six underclassmen we're really going to be looking at next year. We have to replace three starters (Tedesco, Cooley, and Hayley Riley) ... three great starters, but only three.
"This is a good taste for us and I couldn't ask for anything more in my first year. We're going to keep at it. We're trying to build a tradition here.'