SOUDERTON — From her words, it's hard to know if Boyertown senior center back Courtney Goddard was talking about one game or the big picture.
"We've been down before but our mentality is ' Don't turn off,'' the senior captain said. "Keep going, keep doing the little things. I think we did a very good job of that. I'm proud as a teammate and captain that we didn't turn off, that we kept playing.'
It's fair to say both.
The Boyertown girls soccer team certainly didn't turn off, but a goal by Neshaminy freshman Maggie Daeche on a cross from sophomore Gabby Farrell in just the seventh minute proved too much to overcome in a 1-0 defeat in the District 1-AAA semifinals Wednesday at Souderton Area High School.
Top seeded and undefeated Neshaminy (21-0), which defeated Spring-Ford 2-1 in the quarterfinals to clinch a state berth, moves on to Saturday's district final back at Souderton (7 p.m.) against No. 2 Downingtown East, a 3-0 winner over Central Bucks East in the second game of Wednesday's semifinal doubleheader. The Redskins reach the district final after being stopped short by Strath Haven in the semis a year ago.
Fortunately for the fourth-seeded Bears (17-2-2) their season does not end with the district playoffs — as it has every year prior — after qualifying for the PIAA Championships for the first time in program history following their overtime victory over Pennsbury in the quarterfinals. Instead, Boyertown will next meet C.B. East in a PIAA seeding game Saturday at Souderton at 5 p.m. before making their first appearance in the PIAA bracket.
"Getting to the district semifinals we weren't just content being here,' Goddard said. "We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity while we are here. We still have a state tournament (to play in) — and if we can play with Neshaminy, who is a really good team, then we're going to be a hard team to beat in states.'
For Boyertown coach Bill Goddard, who has built the program step-by-step into a now-state qualifier, it is nice to be able to say, in late October, "We live for another day.'
"We've never been on this stage before but I loved the way they played, loved the way they battled,' he said. "I echoed that to them at the end. Be disappointed in the result, which they should be, but you have to look at the big picture.'
At this point of the season every team has quality. Games are decided by capitalizing on an opponent's mistakes. The Redskins made the most of their one chance.
After being on the front foot through the early proceedings, speedy striker Farrell got to the left end line and played a lofted cross into the box which Daeche volleyed into the net to give Neshaminy its 1-0 lead 6:20 into the game.
With a team like Neshaminy, which thumped West Chester East 9-1 in the second round of districts, the rout could have been on. But Boyertown didn't turn off.
"Instead of collapsing after that play we stepped it up and I think we played one of our best games this season,' Courtney Goddard said.
"We don't have Division 1 marquee kids that people are aware of, we just have workers, kids who play well together,' coach Goddard said. "After the first seven minutes and they scored we could have easily crumbled, but we didn't.'
Center backs Ashley Becker and Courtney Goddard and full backs Marie Valenti, who was deployed on the left to combat Neshaminy star Megan Schafer, and Megan Diehl, who was starting on defense in place of Emily Saxon who was limited due to an illness, only doubled their efforts. Becker and Goddard specifically blocked a number of goal-bound shots to prevent the Redskins from building on their lead.
But Neshaminy, which played a 3-5-2 to help control the midfield, and its defense of Katie McCoy, Amy Heller, Nicole Nisivoccia and goalkeeper McKenna Mullin never made the mistake that the Bears required.
"I knew it would be a very tight game,' Courtney Goddard said. "We made a mental mistake in the beginning. If we don't make that mistake it's 0-0 the whole game. They had a solid defense, we have a solid defense. We noticed they were sending seven or eight players forward so we thought we could beat them on a counter. We're a very good counterattacking team so we saw that and that's why we were better in the second half.'
The game was largely played in the Bears' half, especially in the first half, with the Redskins a more possession-oriented team. Boyertown did have a pair of threatening spells, one in each half. In the first half, back-to-back corners led to a good shot by Olivia Frazier but Mullin was there to make the smart save.
Boyertown's other best chance came in the second half when hard-working senior striker Emily Diehl got to the left end line and crossed to Lily Fanok, but her shot was collected by Mullin (two saves). Boyertown counterpart Sarafina Valenti stopped five shots.
The Bears had four corner kicks, which they hoped to employ to their advantage through the heading ability of midfielder Maria Garofolo, and nearly scored in the closing minutes of the game but goalkeeper Mullin navigated through traffic to gather the ball in the air. Neshaminy had three corners while leading in shots on goal, 6-2.
The Bears' postgame emotions showed there wasn't a just-happy-to-be-here mentality and it doesn't take away from the emotion of making the state playoffs for the first time.
"Since I was a little girl I've been sitting on the bench watching players go through the program and each year we're in the PAC-10 playoffs, then it's districts and then we always faltered at that one spot — the second round of districts,' said Courtney Goddard, the daughter of 13th year head coach Bill. "Being a senior, and not only sharing that moment with the coaches and players, but sharing that moment with my dad ... I couldn't ask for a better senior year.
"I'm disappointed with the loss but I'm excited for the state tournament.'