WARMINSTER — All season, all of their scholastic careers even, the 10 players in front of the goalkeeper have made it their primary goal to play determined and steadfast defense. It's the foundation on which the Boyertown girls soccer program is built.
So naturally it took a game where those 10 players were no longer able to protect their goal for the Bears to be taken out.
Deadlocked through regulation and two overtimes in their PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal against Central Bucks East, the Patriots players prevailed by holding their nerve best in penalty kicks as CB East ousted Boyertown, 1-1 (3-2 in penalty kicks), Saturday afternoon at William Tennent High School to advance to the state semifinals.
Patriots senior Shaun Kane netted the decisive kick in the fifth round and the Bears failed to match on their attempt after the two teams went miss-make-miss-make through four rounds, Abby Emmert and Nicole Panella converting for CB East and Emily Saxon and Emily Diehl for Boyertown.
The game came down to PKs after either side managed one goal apiece through 110 minutes. The Patriots' Kristen Murphy opened the scoring early in the second half after being played through by Nicole Panella in the first half before the Bears rallied when Megan Diehl headed in a cross from Taylor Sassaman with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
CB East moves on to face District 1 champion Neshaminy, a 2-0 winner over District 3's Wilson Saturday, Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
For Boyertown (19-3-2), the season ends but only after the team had its best season ever by making its first trip to the PIAA Tournament.
"No other girls team in our school's history has gone this far,' coach Bill Goddard said. "They set the record for wins in a season — 19 — so they've accomplished a lot of things. They went undefeated in the PAC-10 season. We lost three games, to the No. 2 (Neshaminy), the No. 6 team (C.B. East) and Spring-Ford was ranked also.
"We got a taste of it. We talked about once we made the state tournament that we weren't just content being here. I think the way the girls played in both their games they proved they belong here. They represented themselves, their school, their community very well. I'm very proud of them.'
Boyertown and C.B. East faced off a week earlier in the District 1 third-place game, which the Bears won 1-0 but was a game played with a decreased level of intensity, according to Goddard and his players.
After shutting the Patriots out in the previous game and bossing the first half, the Bears defense — Marie Valenti, Courtney Goddard, Saxon, Megan Diehl and goalkeeper Sarafina Valenti — were feeling confident after not allowing a single shot on target in the first half.
But with the better of the play in the first half, the Bears didn't have anything to show for it.
"In a state playoff game you are only going to get a handful of opportunities and you really need to make the most of the few that you get. Normally we are pretty efficient with that but today we weren't able to be as opportunistic as we've been in the last few weeks,' coach Goddard said.
Yet it was a reinvigorated CB East team that scored first when Panella one-touched a quick pass through the defense down the left for an on-rushing Murphy, who sent her shot across goal for the 1-0 lead in the 44th minute. It was their first shot on goal.
The goal boosted the Patriots but the Bears worked their way back into the game, but were unable to convert back-to-back-to-back chances with 18 left in regulation, CB East defender Emily Horn clearing a Jillian Bertino shot off the line and Becker missing a header on the ensuing corner kick.
Boyertown got its equalizer six minutes later when Sassaman boomed a cross to the far post and Megan Diehl lofted a header over Patriots goalkeeper Paige Marcinkowski to even the proceedings 1-1.
"It was such a great feeling,' Sassaman said. "I was kind of winging it and hoping it would go in. I saw Megan get the header on it and was hoping it would go in. I was overwhelmed with joy.'
Neither team could find the goal a second time though, even through 30 minutes of overtime.
"PKs is the worst way to lose a game,' Courtney Goddard said. "I'll never forget the feeling of sophomore year when we lost to Council Rock North in the second round of districts on PKs. For a game to come down to penalty kicks, it stinks.
"As a player I would rather play overtime after overtime; it'd be the hardest thing because you'd be dead tired but at least it wouldn't end with PKs. Unfortunately pressure had the best of us today.'
Even in defeat, Bill Goddard was pleased with his team's play.
"It's a tough way to win or lose a game,' he said. "I love the kids' effort. We were down 1-0 and I still felt that we were going to get back in. They were grinding and grinding and we got that goal and built some momentum and thought we could win it in regulation. But unfortunately it goes to overtime and goes to penalty kicks.'
Sassaman believed the Bears could go far early in the regular season.
"I think by our first game against Spring-Ford I think we knew that if we keep working we will most definitely go far,' she said. "Being in states is amazing because we've never made it this far. It's a great feeling to be one of the last schools in the state to be playing.'
Sassaman, a sophomore, will be among the players returning to the Bears next season, along with fellow sophomores goalkeeper Valenti, midfielder Maria Garofolo and juniors Olivia Frazier and Kasey Sheahan.
But the Bears will say goodbye to a senior class — Maddie Balga, Becker, Bertino, Emily Diehl, Megan Diehl, Lily Fanok, Goddard, Taylor Halteman, Saxon and Marie Valenti — that sent the Bears to new heights.
"I'm very, very proud to make it this far,' Courtney Goddard said. "It would have been nice to make it farther and extend our season another couple days.'
The Bears' Valenti and Patriots' Marcinkowski stopped five shots each ... Both sides had six shots on goal and CB East led in corners, 7-5 ... The game was the second game of a PIAA tripleheader at Tennent, following Spring-Ford's 1-0 victory over Downingtown East. Even after her team's loss, Bears captain Courtney Goddard was pleased to see a PAC-10 team move on. "Spring-Ford is in it and they're a PAC-10 team. They might be a rival but I'm very proud that they are in (the state semifinals), represent the PAC-10 and show that we're not that bad of a league,' she said.