AMBLER — It's become a broken record.
A victory over Villa Maria Academy last week was Upper Perkiomen's first since 2006, the same year the school won its last district title. Now, the Tribe can check off one more square on their preseason wish list after a 3-2 victory over Donegal on Tuesday afternoon at Wissahickon High School: Advance in the PIAA-AA playoffs.
When does the winning stop? If the Tribe have anything to say about it, it won't.
For three years, Casey Umstead, Rachel Felbinger, Maddie Fox and a senior class of 12 have remained on the cusp of triumph. Last year, the ride ended with a 3-2 loss to Selinsgrove in the PIAA-AA first round. Other years also produced first round exits.
The talent has been there, from head coach Jamie Warren to goalkeeper Hannah Mack, this team — one that has come breathtakingly close to grabbing a hold of District 1 and state prominence — has started to come into its own.
"Maturation' as Warren calls it.
"Everybody was ready to play and ready to win,' the head coach said.
Umstead, the UConn recruit, who displays a more reserved demeanor off the field, scored in the first minute-and-a-half in the game en route to two goals while Morgan Aldinger tallied her first strike since a 6-0 victory over Pottstown on September 30 as the Tribe stymied a late push from Donegal to secure the victory.
Upper Perkiomen will now face Wyoming Seminary on Saturday at a site and time to be determined, the team that ousted Upper Perkiomen in the PIAA final in 2006.
"We had this as one of our last things on our checklist before the season,' Felbinger said. "It's nice to be able to cross it off and keep going from here.'
"I have one word for this ... Awesome,' Umstead said as she accidently spilled a Gatorade bottle filled with water on the pavement.
Her two goals, for lack of a better term, could be described from the terminology of the senior forward ... awesome.
Two shots. Same location, same placement, same result. Umstead's prowess was on full display early in the game as she worked around two Donegal defenders before sending a reverse chip from the top of the circle past goalkeeper Kylie Bair to give the Tribe a 1-0 advantage. Twenty minutes later, with the game tied at one, dÃ©jÃ vu set in as Umstead seemingly took the same shot — taking two or three steps to the left before targeting another reverse chip for the back of the cage.
"She is a natural competitor,' Warren said. "She goes and she displayed that calm sense about her on the field. She didn't let the officials get to her.'
Unfortunately for Upper Perkiomen, Donegal also boasted a strong class of competitors as forward Kayla Walker became a nightmare for the Tribe's defense throughout the game. Walker's speed allowed Donegal use long-hits to advance down the field — a strategy that Warren said couldn't be mirrored by the Tribe throughout.
The strategy started to pay dividends in the middle of the first half as Donegal forced the Tribe to play on their heels in the defensive zone, allowing Rachel Robinson to induce a corner — the team's fourth of the half. Stemming from the Abby Sauder insert, Amanda Robinson played give-and-go with Rachel Robinson, allowing Amanda Robinson to scorch a shot past Mack to tie the game at one.
From that point on, it was time for the Tribe's defense to shine. Mack got revenge for the goal against in the first half as she came up with a succession of saves that got the Upper Perkiomen fans off their feet.
With Walker bearing down on the junior keeper, Mack came sliding out to poke away the shot attempt, followed by a kick-save while she was on her back to deny Walker on her second attempt. The keeper finished the game with 10 stops.
"She likes doing them (sliding poke checks),' Warren said. "They're challenging. Good goalies step up to make those great saves. She was steady in goal and that was very important.'
"Oh my gosh that was phenomenal,' Umstead said.
Piggy-backing on Mack's success, Aldinger got in on the scoring action, as she took the penalty corner insert from Sam Dingler and laced it past Bair to give the Tribe a 3-1 advantage.
With the two goal lead, the Tribe shifted to using four backs with Natalie Ciuta eyeing Walker. Felbinger, Ciuta and the backs came up big during the half — denying Donegal a chance to tie after Morgan Ocampo brought the game to a 3-2 level with a minute remaining.
Felbinger, a senior who has grown into a full time starter throughout the last two years, had arguably her best performance of the season. Her greatest moment came early in the first half as she stole an outlet pass intended for Walker and sent it to Umstead who then forced a penalty corner shortly thereafter.
"Rachel has been another player that I've worked with,' Warren said. "She's smart, she's played a smart game. When you have a smart player and you can make them a defender you can make it look easy making right passes.'
"I just look to see who's open and who I need to get the ball too,' Felbinger said.
For Warren, the victory was a testament of the maturation that has encompassed Umstead and this team from their freshman year.
"She (Umstead) has matured so much,' Warren said. "She's obviously a strong player but with that also comes a lot of responsibility and a lot of weight.'
"She pushes me to lead by example,' Umstead added. "I'm really proud of my team.'
This team has been there and done that. It knows what to expect. Now, it's a matter of putting the right pieces together to forge ahead in a new path — a path toward a state championship.
Follow Sam Stewart on Twitter @Samuel_Stewart7