ROYERSFORD — Everything about the Perkiomen Valley boys soccer team looked the same: the players, the jerseys, the style of play.
But, according to head coach Bob McCabe, Monday night's edition of the Vikings looked a whole lot like the team that started the season with one win in four attempts, instead of the team that rattled off nine wins to close its league schedule to qualify for the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs.
"Some of the things that were plaguing us on the first half of the season — not finishing — seemed to haunt us in the first half. The longer you go (without scoring) the harder you press,' McCabe said.
Fortunately for the Vikings it only takes one.
With frustration building as they were kept at bay by Pottsgrove, Matt Genuardi finally cashed in on a breakaway with just over five minutes remaining to give Perkiomen Valley a 1-0 victory over the Falcons, sending the Vikings to the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game.
Perkiomen Valley will face Spring-Ford — a 6-0 winner over Pope John Paul II in the second game of Tuesday's semifinals — on Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. at Spring-Ford's Coach McNelly Stadium, the opener of a PAC-10 soccer championship doubleheader.
It will be PV's first trip to the title game since 2010 when it fell to Spring-Ford, 3-1.
It's been quite a run for the Vikings, going 10 games unbeaten in the PAC-10 to make the Final Four and deny defending champion Boyertown a place in the quartet.
"It's been a really good senior season,' senior center back Kyle Charlton said. "We started out rough but we've really picked it up at the end of the season. We started finishing. Our defense and midfield have been solid and now we're just finally putting goals in with Matt Genuardi and Scott Neal.'
That didn't look like it would necessarily be the case after a dominant first half that featured lots of shots, but little in the way of quality chances. The Vikings had only one excellent opportunity, but Pottsgrove goalkeeper Teddy Calabretta made a double save on a shot by Scott Neal and rebound shot by Ryan Szabo.
Considering the Vikings have been at their best on the break, the style didn't necessarily suit them.
"I think we're really a counterattacking team. When we're back in (our own end) we can counter them and use our speed,' Charlton said.
The game picked up quite a bit in the second half — not only in the Falcons' level of play, but in the amount of scoring opportunities for both sides.
Pottsgrove deployed standout Ethan Abdalla in the midfield alongside Travers Mutton to combat the Vikings, a move that gained a better foothold for the final 40 minutes.
At the same time, PV junior midfielder Alex Dove made a number of smart runs to get behind the defense and get a shot off, as did senior forward Neal. But each time the shots were magnets to the Falcons' Calabretta.
"We had chance after chance and couldn't put away three breakaways. But I knew that eventually we would get a goal,' Genuardi said. "We kept on the pressure.'
Pottsgrove had a few chances in the second half of the scoreless affair, its best coming when Rammy Abbas shot just wide and Germann Larmond flashed his shot across goal. Shots on target proved to be an issue for the Falcons, totaling just one for the contest to 14 by the Vikings.
While his shot wasn't coming off, Neal — the scorer of the game-winning penalty kick against Owen J. Roberts last week to send his team to the Final Four — found another way to help create a goal.
Following a quickly-taken free kick from deep in their own end, the Vikings attacked fast, Neal playing Genuardi through the defense on a diagonal run.
Unsure of even who played the pass, Genuardi was confident his teammate would play the right pass.
"I think we have enough chemistry for him to know I like (the ball played) over the top. I was able to beat the defender 1-on-1 and I saw the keeper was going to dive so I hit it early and luckily it went in,' Genuardi said.
Chemistry has carried the Vikings far enough to be one win away from the school's first PAC-10 boys soccer title since 2001.
"It's been a fun ride. I can't complain about any of it,' McCabe said. "They've been dramatic. I'm sure they're fun to watch. They're not great games to coach because it feels like it's out of your hands. These guys really do have a will to not lose, that they're determined to win the game no matter the circumstances. They just keep going and going.'
Perkiomen Valley's goal came when Pottsgrove starting center back Scott Exley was out of the game due to a leg injury, forcing the Falcons to shift their back line. ... Calabretta totaled 13 saves while Perkiomen Valley's Corey Jackson needed just one save to record the clean sheet.