SpringFord’s # 23 Aley Kate McKinley is mobbed by teammates after her game winning goal....Photo/Tom Kelly III
SpringFord's # 23 Aley Kate McKinley is mobbed by teammates after her game winning goal....Photo/Tom Kelly III

The math teachers of the members of the Spring-Ford girls soccer team must be proud.

On Saturday afternoon in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals, the Rams seemed to put the transitive property of equality to good use.

After knocking off No. 1 ranked Cumberland Valley in the first round of states Tuesday night in Hershey, Spring-Ford took on the look of the No. 1 team in Pa. in a dominant 1-0 victory over District 1 runner-up Downingtown East to advance to the PIAA semifinals for the first time in school history.

Senior Aley Kate McKinley found the net for Spring-Ford (23-2-1) on a one-touch pass from sophomore Gabrielle Vagnozzi midway through the second half for the game's solo score. But the Rams controlled the game from the outset, hitting the post twice in the first half and carrying a 10-1 advantage in shots on goal.

CB East’s goalkeeper Kaelyn Johns makes a great save as Spring-Ford’s Megan Giannopoulos (12) applies heavy pressure on the keeper in
CB East's goalkeeper Kaelyn Johns makes a great save as Spring-Ford's Megan Giannopoulos (12) applies heavy pressure on the keeper in Spring-Ford's 1-0 victory in the PIAA-AAA quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

"If we can beat the No. 1 team we can beat anyone,' McKinley said. "It was a huge confidence boost, but we still know we need to come out and work hard every time.'

"This is so big,' sophomore defender Laura Suero said of reaching the PIAA semifinals for the first time. "We've never made it this far, it's so exciting. We've never been here, so every game we make history.

The Rams will face District 7 champion Seneca Valley, a 2-0 winner over Peters Township Saturday, in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

Unlike the matchup with Cumberland Valley, Spring-Ford came out firing.

"We talked about it at practice yesterday, we've been going into games as the underdog every time and we've come out nervous. But at practice I said we needed to come out fast and we definitely came out hard,' McKinley said.

That may or may not have been the case against traditional District 1 power Downingtown East (18-4), which returned to the PIAA stage after a three-year hiatus.

"I think this gets us back on the map and builds momentum,' East coach Craig Reed said. "(Three years ago) we were right on top of the district and state. We won the district in 2009. Last year we lost in the first round and I think we're back now. The girls set a great example.'

SpringFord’s # 42 Gabrielle Vagnozzi and East’s # 30 Caroline Martini pursue a loose ball....Photo/Tom Kelly III
SpringFord's # 42 Gabrielle Vagnozzi and East's # 30 Caroline Martini pursue a loose ball....Photo/Tom Kelly III

For Spring-Ford, it isn't ' back' on the map. But Royersford is definitely on the PIAA girls soccer map now.

"I thought they were one of the most technical teams we've faced this season,' East coach Reed said. "They kept the ball really well. The more they have the ball the less chances we have to score. They are one of the more technical teams we've played and that was definitely a challenge.'

The Cougars did come into Saturday after a convincing 5-1 win over District 3's Dover on Tuesday, senior forward Linnea Faccenda scoring all five goals.

Suero and the defensive line of Kaitlyn Dougherty, Taylor Newhart and Julie Pennington were well-aware of the threat the East striker posed.

SpringFord’s Aley Kate McKinley takes the ball from Downington East’s Caroline Martini during the first half of Spring-Ford’s 1-0 victory
SpringFord's Aley Kate McKinley takes the ball from Downington East's Caroline Martini during the first half of Spring-Ford's 1-0 victory in the PIAA quarterfinal. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

"We worried about her because she's been doing great throughout the season, but when we play our game we've been winning so we can't change anything,' Suero said. "We keep pushing and pushing to get more wins and we keep doing it as a team.'

In the first half, the Rams were pushing but the goals weren't coming. They had four shots on goal and hit the post twice, the first on a shot by senior Megan Giannopoulos and the other a shot from distance by Vagnozzi.

But East goalkeeper Kaelyn Johns and defenders Nicole Caston, Maddy Schier and Caroline Martini didn't surrender a score.

The Rams finally got their breakthrough with 18:42 remaining when Giannopoulos passed to Vagnozzi, who laid off a one-touch pass to McKinley.

"It came from the left side and Gabby Vagnozzi, who is a great player, knew exactly what she wanted to do when she got the ball,' McKinley said. "She played a great one-touch ball to me, I took a touch and saw the goalie was on the right side and I snuck it in the left side.'

Five minutes later the Rams were in position to put the game away when midfielder Sammy Stipa — whose pressure and presence in the midfield was a force all day — was fouled inside the penalty area. But fellow midfielder Sarah Hancock's penalty attempt was saved by Johns, one of her six saves on the day.

Instead of a letdown, the Rams stayed on top though they did dodge a bullet when Faccenda hit the crossbar, which was the Cougars' best chance of the game.

"We never let down. We have to keep our energy up through the whole game, to the last second,' Suero said.

From PAC-10 champions to now PIAA semifinalists, Spring-Ford continues to get better. Its goals keep changing, too.

"We set goals and everything (in the beginning of the season) and it was, ' We really want to win the PAC-10 championship.' We did it and we've been going up from there,' McKinley said.

NOTES

Spring-Ford totaled eight shots on goal to one from Downingtown East. The Rams led in corners, 4-0. Spring-Ford goalkeeper Jenna Griggs registered one save.