While Spring-Ford's deadly combination of speed and skill was a big reason the Rams enjoyed their best season since the girls soccer program began in 1997, culminating in Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to Neshaminy in the PIAA-AAA championship, the coaching staff was also a key part of the successful equation.
Third-year Rams head coach Sheldon Chamberlain, a 73-year-old icon of the sport who previously served as head men's coach at La Salle University and head women's coach at Villanova, added another highlight to his long resume by guiding the Rams to a breakout campaign.
He was more than ably complemented by second-year assistant Tim Leyland and first-year assistant Liz Caggiano. Leyland, a 1998 Perkiomen Valley grad who played for current Vikings coach Bob McCabe, is an asset in the x-and-o and technique departments, while Caggiano (a 2007 Spring-Ford grad who played four years for the Rams) was the squad's motivator.
"I think the three of us provided a nice dynamic for the girls,' Caggiano said. "They got a little bit of everything from us.'
Chamberlain is in his 46th year of coaching, with previous stops at Montgomery County Community College and Venice (Fla.) High. He has also been heavily involved in the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association through the years.
Spring-Ford starting sophomore wing Gabby Vagnozzi spent Friday night watching her older brother Alec play on the defensive line for the Rams' football team in its district quarterfinal loss to Neshaminy. Despite her best efforts Saturday, she was not able to turn the table on the Redskins.
Vagnozzi limped off the pitch with a knee injury late in the first half (after star Megan Giannopoulos left with ankle injury and didn't return). She eventually returned and delivered a gutsy performance down the stretch that helped the Rams erase a 1-0 deficit and force overtime.
Spring-Ford became the fourth Rams team to play for a state championship. The baseball team lost to Canon McMillan 10-2 in the 2008 Class AAAA final, the baseball team fell 6-3 in 10 innings to Conestoga in the 2011 Class AAAA final, and the girls basketball team defeated Cumberland Valley 60-45 in last year's Class AAAA championship. ... In other state championship action from Friday and Saturday, Upper St. Clair defeated Conestoga Valley 4-0 for its second straight Class AAA boys crown, Holy Ghost Prep beat West Allegheny 1-0 in overtime for the Class AA boys title, Sewickley Academy beat Mountain View 4-2 in the Class A boys final, Central Valley beat Trinity 2-1 in the Class AA girls final and Greensburg Central Catholic defeated Southern Columbia 2-1 for its second straight Class A girls title.