AMBLER — For three years the Upper Perkiomen field hockey team has met Villa Maria in the District 1-AA final — for three years, they've fallen.
This year, all of that has changed.
Casey Umstead scored twice, including the game-winner with 3:30 left in the first overtime period as the Tribe — for the first time since 2006 — ousted Villa Maria 3-2 in the District 1-AA semifinals at Wissahickon High School.
"It's great to have the win in overtime,' Upper Perkiomen head coach Jamie Warren said. "I'm really proud of them.'
The win, which has propelled the Tribe to another berth into the state playoffs, elicited one simple phrase from the lips of a team that encompasses 12 seniors.
"We beat Villa.'
It's a phrase that has stood in the forefront of the team's goals this season. Yes, advancing to districts and states remained a top priority, but beating Villa Maria (14-5) to obtain those goals couldn't be matched.
"We've been playing with this team for three years, we finally beat our goal,' senior Jenna Caciolo said.
"It's an incredible feeling to beat Villa, I'm so proud of my team on how hard we worked this season,' defenseman Rachel Felbinger said.
"It's a humongous weight lifted off our shoulders,' Morgan Aldinger followed.
Umstead's goal came after a back-and-forth overtime period that saw the Tribe play a man-down for two minutes of the frame as Natalie Ciuta was given a green card at the 10-minute mark. After inducing four corners in the overtime, Umstead capitalized on the finale as she took the Sam Dingler insert, went right past one Villa Maria defender, left around another and fired a shot that rattled the back of the cage, sending the Upper Perkiomen bench into a frenzy as Umstead catapulted herself into the open arms of Dingler with the rest of the team sprinting toward her in jubilation.
"I just feel like this win has been about three years in the waiting,' head coach Jamie Warren said.
Sixty minutes before the golden goal, it was Umstead and Dingler that connected for the first of the Tribe's three tallies.
Upper Perkiomen wasted no time getting on the board in the first half as Umstead took the insert from Dingler on the fourth corner of the game and ripped a shot that caromed off Villa Maria goalkeeper Emily Wilson. As the ball trickled back to Umstead, the UConn recruit gathered herself before lacing a shot past outstretched Villa Maria goalie Emily Wilson to put the Tribe up 1-0.
On the defensive end, Felbinger and goalkeeper Hannah Mack came up huge for the Tribe during the first half as Mack stopped five shots in the frame to keep the game 1-0. Her biggest saves came at the end of time in the first half as the junior keeper denied the Magic on three-straight penalty corner attempts — highlighted by a sprawling left pad save on an offering from junior forward Amelia Iacobucci.
Iacobucci got her redemption in the second half as Villa Maria started to find lanes to shoot.
Spearheading the offensive onslaught was Iacobucci who sent a pass through the five-hole of Mack just a minute into the second half to knot the game at 1-1.
After a Maddie Fox goal gave the Tribe a 2-1 advantage with 20 minutes to play in regulation, the onslaught continued for the Magic. Four corners in a span of four minutes paced the play for the Magic as senior Megan Parsons equalized the contest at two after she took a rebounded shot off the right pad from Iacobucci and sent it past Mack on the stick-side with 6:16 remaining.
Like clockwork, Upper Perkiomen answered the bell.
The Tribe seized the reins of any momentum built by the Magic and worked its way down field, forcing two corners with 40 seconds to go. Unfortunately for the Tribe, Wilson made two phenomenal saves with Tribe forwards on the doorstep to send the game into overtime — cueing Umstead's dramatics.
For Villa Maria, their PIAA hopes hinge on the outcome of their playback game against Gwynedd Mercy — a team that they have succumbed to twice this season.
"We've played them twice; we've lost them to them twice,' Villa Maria head coach Janet Coady said. "It's tough to beat a team three times. The girls got to work harder. Teamwork, working all together and leaving it all out there, it's as simple as that.'
Now, Upper Perkiomen will play fifth-seeded Merion Mercy, a victor over No. 1 Gwynedd Mercy on Tuesday afternoon, in the district final on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
"We want to win the district final. We've been there for three years and now we want to take it home,' Warren said.