HERSHEY — It was a season of firsts — basically for the past month — for the Spring-Ford girls soccer team.
From the team's first Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, first deep run in the District 1 playoffs, first trip to the PIAA Class AAA playoffs, it's been a maiden voyage all the way.
That's not even mentioning the three PIAA victories against three of the best teams in Pa. on the way to reaching Saturday's PIAA Class AAA championship game against Neshaminy.
The Rams' run didn't finish the way they wanted, unable to stop the Redskins' undefeated season in a 2-1 overtime defeat.
"We started the season with all these goals, a whole list of them, and we worked for those goals,' Gabrielle Vagnozzi said. "As the season went on we notched off every single one of them: won PAC-10s, went further in the district playoffs than ever before and now we came here (to the PIAA final in Hershey). We didn't think we were going to come here but we came here and I thought we made a statement. We didn't get the result we wanted but I thought we played a great game.'
But just because it was a first doesn't mean there can't be a second, third and beyond in the coming years.
There's certainly a foundation in place.
This year's Spring-Ford team did feature six senior starters — Kaitlyn Dougherty, Megan Giannopoulos, Julie Pennington, Sarah Hancock, Sammy Stipa and Aley Kate McKinley — all who made a major impact.
"They meant a heck of a lot to us,' head coach Sheldon Chamberlain said. "They were the leaders of the whole pack. Every time we needed a psychological boost they'd say, ' We can do this.'
But it was impossible to overlook the Rams' four sophomore standouts: Vagnozzi, Brianna Cirino, Taylor Newhart and Laura Suero.
Further, junior goalkeeper Jenna Griggs played arguably her best game of the postseason Saturday when she stopped nine shots.
Spring-Ford spent all season bucking trends, so it only stands to reason that an underclassmen quartet would make such waves on a state finalist when varsity sports are so often dominated by upperclassmen.
"This has been an amazing journey,' Suero said. "No one thought we could get this far. But we came out every game and pushed so hard; and we wanted it. We worked as a team to get where we are.'
Defenders Suero and Newhart, midfielder Cirino and forward Vagnozzi embraced that team play from early on, all excelling in the Rams' ball pressure and short, quick passing style.
Suero had the unenviable task of marking Neshaminy senior star Megan Schafer, who finished her scholastic career with 102 goals, no matter which side she played on. Schafer did net the Redskins' opening score, but it was on a set piece meaning Suero largely kept the physically-imposing Schafer in check.
"She's so amazing,' Suero said of the duel with Schafer. "I just wanted to try to shut her down. We all did a really good job stopping them.'
Newhart was a key piece in that defensive presence, playing above her years all postseason while fending off the opposition's best strikers, Cumberland Valley's Jen Falconer and Downingtown East's Linnae Faccenda and Neshaminy's Gabby Farrell, throughout states.
Cirino, also a lacrosse standout, fit right in with the toughness of the Rams' midfield and Vagnozzi showed rare two-way ability in joining the defense when needed while bringing an attacking presence that landed her seven goals and 12 assists, including setting up the game-winner in the semifinal win over Seneca Valley.
The bond of the foursome goes well beyond the field.
"We are all best friends,' Suero said. "I'm going to miss it so much playing with them even though we have two more years. We do everything together; we have each other's backs. We work together so well and it's going to keep getting better.'
Unlike their senior teammates, the sophomore quartet, along with Griggs and juniors Kat Connelly, Erica Mastromatto and Tessa Nykanen, who each saw playing time in the final, will get another shot at building on the Rams' success in 2013.
"We have good players coming back next year, I think we're going to be good,' Vagnozzi said. "I definitely want to kick butt next year especially after ending the season like this. I hope we do well next season and I think we will.'
It seems Spring-Ford is in good hands, or feet, as the case may be.