BOYERTOWN — Even with all of its success over the years, the Boyertown girls soccer team had never made it to the PIAA Tournament. But that's now all in the past after the Bears' 1-0 District 1-AAA quarterfinal overtime win against Pennsbury on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Maria Garafolo headed in the game-winner in the 103rd minute (with 7:20 left in the second 15-minute overtime) off a corner kick by Emily Saxon to clinch one of the district's five spots in state play. Next, fourth-seeded Boyertown (17-1-2) will meet top-seeded Neshaminy, a 2-1 winner over Spring-Ford on Saturday afternoon, in a Wednesday semifinal at a neutral site to be determined. Pennsbury (12-5-4), the 12th seed, will need to win two playback games to advance.
"It feels so great,' said sophomore midfielder Garafolo. "We worked so hard for it and we wanted it so bad.'
"When I was fortunate to get this job 14 years ago, it (making it to states) was a dream, and they made it come true,' said Bear coach Bill Goddard. "Our kids played their hearts out.'
The Bears were awarded their third corner kick of the night as the clock ticked closer and closer to penalty kicks. Then Saxon kicked it inbounds from the left to the far corner of the net into a crowd of several Boyertown players and a couple of Falcon defenders and Garafolo was able to knock it in.
"I saw it going up and over,' said Garafolo. "It hit off some players and might have even hit the post. I was right there and thought I just wanted it to go in, and I headed it in.'
That came after a fairly evenly-played game that included a feeling out process in the first half, a faster and faster pace in the second half, and cautious overtimes where neither team wanted to suffer a sudden loss.
The best scoring opportunities came early in the second half. First, the Falcons put a long and high shot on goal, but Bears keeper Sarafina Valenti was able to tip it over the crossbar and then went down to grab a low shot from point blank range off the ensuing corner kick. Then the Bears picked up their first corner kick of the match a minute later for a shot right out in front, but Pennsbury keeper Sarah McDonald made the great save.
Then with the possibility of unwanted penalty kicks looming, Garafolo ended it in an instant.
"I think we all just wanted to put it away,' she said. "We did a different corner. Our first three games of the season were in overtime. I don't want to say we were ready for it since that was in the beginning of the season, but we were a lot more ready.'
Last year Pennsbury had eliminated the Bears by a 2-1 score in the second round.
"This was redemption,' said Garafolo.
"They're a very organized team,' Goddard said concerning the Falcons. "I was hoping we weren't going to penalty kicks. Last year they beat us 2-1 here. I think we gained a lot of experience last year.'
Pennsbury went on to lose its quarterfinal last year and then the first playback game to Pennridge, the team it upset in penalty kicks in this year's second round.
"It's not going to be an easy road to get to states,' said Falcon coach Kim Voorhees. "But we've proven we can take down the no. 5 seed (Pennridge) and almost the no. 4 seed.
"It was a good game. Both teams had chances. I think we controlled the possession more and built up an attack. They showed heart the entire time.'
But while Pennsbury must now do it the hard way, the Bears can just concentrate on preparing for their semifinal.
"It's just been a wild ride,' added Goddard. "Every night it's different. Last time it was three defenders. This time Maria was able to put it in off a reset.'