BUCKTOWN — Don't get a Wildcat into a corner.
Timely advice for any opponents facing the Owen J. Roberts girls soccer team. Taking pride in their ability to force and convert corner kicks, the ' Cats played that strategy to their advantage Tuesday when they opened the District 1 Class AAA playoffs against Quakertown.
Kate Dempsey's goal with 4:15 left proved the decider for Roberts in a 2-1 victory at Wildcat Stadium. In a game where all the scoring took place in the second half, a corner kick literally got OJR a leg up against the 18th-seeded Panthers ... and in the postseason.
Gabby McKee, set up by Emilie Kupsov off a corner kick, broke the 0-0 stalemate 2:14 into the second half. It continued OJR's advantage in corners, highlighted by a 5-2 differential in the first half.
"We're dangerous on corners,' OJR head coach Joe Margusity said. "Gabby had a great finish on the play.
"Quakertown was looking to counterattack throughout the game. Our girls used their offensive pressure to get corner kicks.'
The win will put the 15th-seeded Wildcats into a second-round rematch with Downingtown East Thursday. Quakertown, in turn, heads home for the season after playing Owen J. relatively close for most of the game's 80 minutes.
The Panthers pulled even with 18:08 left, Vic Sturgis going left-to-right in angling a shot past the reach of OJR goalkeeper Kristen Emig. That proved a shot in the arm for the visitors, who were outshot by the Wildcats by only a 10-7 margin on the night.
"They come from a tough conference,' Margusity said of Quakertown. "They had a good scheme ... a good defensive system. They shut Kupsov down for much of the game.'
Emig provided her own shutdown play in goal.
A field player transitioning to a keeper this fall, Emig recorded two saves — one of them coming 15:30 into the second half to protect OJR's initial 1-0 lead. She later covered the ball with 30 seconds left, thwarting Quakertown's last-ditch possession after getting the ball back with 1:02 showing on the clock.
"I saw she got crossed in, close to the post,' Emig said of that save opportunity. "I was just in the right place at the right time. There's a lot of responsibility with it, but I just do what I can to save the team.
"She's worked hard to get there,' Margusity added. "She was there to save the game.'
Dempsey provided the ultimate saving grace; namely, eliminating the possibility of the contest being decided in overtime or by penalty kicks. The junior midfielder took a pass from Emily Keck and booted it straight into the cage from 10 yards out, giving Roberts a decided boost as it tried to bottle up the Panthers at their end of the field the rest of the way.
"Emily played a great ball,' Dempsey said. "It bounced my way.'
Getting the district win offered a measure of consolation for the ' Cats, a perennial Pioneer Athletic Conference "Final Four' qualifier who missed making the bracket this year.
"Definitely. We wanted to prove ourselves,' Dempsey said. "Our conference season wasn't the best. We want to show we're a good team.'
East will offer OJR a challenge in that regard when they face off at 7 p.m. Thursday. The district's second seeds won their regular-season matchup, 2-0.
"It was a close game, 0-0 with 20 minutes in the second half,' Margusity said of the first go-round. "They got a goal with 30 seconds to go, so it was more like a 1-0 game.'
Dempsey affirmed her team's desire to avoid an overtime scenario on what developed into a crisp October night. "Spring-Ford was our last overtime game,' she said. "We didn't want to do that again.' ... The first-half stats showed Owen J. with a 4-3 edge in shots on goal, and all even in goalkeeper saves at 1-1.
Follow Jeff Stover on Twitter at @MercuryXStover.