Owen J. Roberts’ Lauren Schweppe takes a shot on a corner against Phoenixville during Monday’s PAC-10 field hockey semifinal at Upper
Owen J. Roberts' Lauren Schweppe takes a shot on a corner against Phoenixville during Monday's PAC-10 field hockey semifinal at Upper Perkiomen. (John Strickler/The Mercury)

RED HILL — It didn't quite duplicate the offensive output of their previous meeting.

But Owen J. Roberts was its usual dominating self Tuesday in the opening round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference's Final Four playoffs. The Wildcats poured it on in the first half against Phoenixville, then put on the defensive clamps in the second half for a 4-0 victory over the Phantoms at Upper Perkiomen.

Lauren Schweppe headed a balanced offense for OJR (11-1-1 league, 13-5-1 overall), with five players figuring in on the point production. That qualified the Wildats for Thursday's title game with Upper Perkiomen — a 4-2 winner over Methacton in the other semifinal — back at the Indians' home field.

Phoenixville’s McKenzie Ashburn and Owen J. Roberts’ Samantha Garritano battle for control of ball in the first half of Tuesday’s PAC-10
Phoenixville's McKenzie Ashburn and Owen J. Roberts' Samantha Garritano battle for control of ball in the first half of Tuesday's PAC-10 field hockey semifinal. (John Strickler/The Mercury)

Their rematch from a 5-0 victory during the regular season saw OJR get on the scoreboard just 90 seconds into the contest. While that ultimately proved the game-winner over Phoenixville (6-7, 8-9), the Wildcats showed no slowdown as they got three more goals in less than the final 14½ minutes of the first half.

"We played good team ball,' OJR head coach Clarence Jenelle said after seeing his club dominate Phoenixville in several statistical categories. The Wildcats held a 19-5 edge in shots on goal, allowing the Phantoms just one in the second half, and took 11 corners to Phoenixville's four.

At the defensive end, the play of backs like Caroline Ratjik, Nettie Montes and Samantha Garritano required goalies Ally Mooney and Lizzy Tamburro to make just a combined seven saves to secure the team's 11th shutout of the year. Mooney, who had four of them in the first half, found other ways to keep herself occupied during the long stretches when Owen J. kept the action at Phoenixville's end of the field.

"I make sure everyone is in the right place ... keep talking it up,' OJR's one senior netminder said. "But they didn't make me do much work.'

Owen J. Roberts’ Elizabeth Karcewski pushes the ball upfield in the first half against Phoenixville during Tuesday’s PAC-10 field hockey
Owen J. Roberts' Elizabeth Karcewski pushes the ball upfield in the first half against Phoenixville during Tuesday's PAC-10 field hockey semifinal. (John Strickler/The Mercury)

OJR's opening score came when Schweppe slapped the ball past Phoenixville goalie Kim Rutherford from about 15 yards out. That tenuous advantage was expanded less than 14 minutes later as Emma Christman took a rebound and fired an air shot into the cage at the 14:28 mark.

Owen J. emerged unscathed from a player-down disadvantage with 9:02 to go, making it a 3-0 game at 2:34 with Ashley Kucera converting a pass from Schweppe off a corner play. And six seconds before the half ended, it parlayed another corner shot into Madelyn Mullen's score off a setup by Nettie Montes.

"We didn't stand waiting for the ball to break between,' Jenelle said. "Instead of hitting straight, we'd cut one step and shoot. The early release was part of that ... nobody was in that space.'

Phoenixville goalie Kim Rutherford tries to block a shot by Owen J. Roberts’ Nettie Montes and Emma Christman in first half action Tuesday. (John
Phoenixville goalie Kim Rutherford tries to block a shot by Owen J. Roberts' Nettie Montes and Emma Christman in first half action Tuesday. (John Strickler/The Mercury)

In a second half that saw both teams substitute more than the first, Owen J. yielded Phoenixville just one shot on goal and two corners. The ' Cats, by comparison, took seven shots and five corners while Tamburro played a three-save half in the nets.

"Defensive play was the difference,' Mooney said. "It was harder to clear the ball out.'

Phoenixville's best scoring opportunity came when forwards Bailey Quinn and Rose Moore, moving the ball downfield in the second half, sparked a push that set up a corner play. But Tamburro and her defensive mates were able to clear the ball wide and continue their shutout bid.

"While it does feel good,' Mooney said of OJR's frequent offensive domination, "we have to remember a team can always come back.'

Looking ahead to his team's return visit to Upper Perk, Jenelle sees the Frontier-leading Indians with a home-field — make that turf — advantage.

"We beat them 3-0,' he recalled of their regular-season meeting on Sept. 23, "but it was on our turf, which is faster. Their turf could be the equalizer ... it's not as hard as ours.'

"We haven't played on this (turf) since the Spring-Ford game,' Mooney added. "It was important for us to get the feel of it.'

NOTES

Owen J. Roberts had yielded just six goals in its 13 league games. A combined four of them were scored by Methacton in the course of dealing the Wildcats their lone loss and tie. ... Moore took a hard shot in the chest in front of the Phoenixville bench at the 4:52 mark of the first half, but she returned to action. ... Rutherford had 15 goalie saves for the Phantoms.