Field hockey starts District playoffs today
Devon Kriebel and Casey Umstead battle a Spring-Ford player for the ball as their teammates surround them looking for the ball to emerge from the attack in last Thursday night's PAC-10 championship game played at Upper Perk.
Spring-Ford’s relentless field hockey team entered the PAC-10 championship game against Upper Perkiomen undefeated and left that way, garnering the 2012 championship despite an outstanding effort by Tribe goalie Katey Lederer in a 3-1 loss.
The Rams (19-0) held a decided advantage in shots (18-3), corners (18-3) and territorial play and, for the most part, neutralized the Tribe’s big guns, Casey Umstead and Carrie Nyce, by keeping the ball away from the Tribe’s potent offense.
Upper Perk’s best moments came early in the contest. From the opening whistle, the Tribe aggressively attacked and got what would turn out to be their only corner of the half less than three minutes into the game.
The Indians (16-3-1) would eventually capitalize on the pressure with a goal by Sami Stalford with 21:37 left in the half. The Upper Perk senior tallied a goal mouth score, tipping a shot by Umstead past goalie Dante Vagnoni for the early 1-0 lead.
The score was typical of the kind of work Stalford has done all year. “I’m always up in the circle for my teammates, so as soon as I see a ball coming across, I get my stick in there and I hit it in,” said Stalford.
But the goal apparently served as a wakeup call for Spring-Ford, which took over the game with a deadly combination of skill and speed.
The Rams started piling up the corners and Lederer was forced to make acrobatic save after acrobatic save including three in a row at one point, culminating with a split save on Caleigh Falco.
“She kept us in the game,” said Upper Perk coach Jamie Warren of her senior netminder. “She was very active in there. That’s what you need from a goalie at playoff level.”
Emily Coyne finally dented Lederer’s armor with 9:32 left until halftime, batting the ball into the Upper Perk cage after a scramble in front set up by a pass from Simone Vagnoni.
Then Gabby Major scored five minutes later, taking a pass from Alyssa Chillano and burying a shot into the far corner for a 2-1 Ram advantage and a lead they would not relinquish.
Stalford lamented the turn of events. “We had a lot of excitement, but we kind of lost our composure towards the end of the first half. If we would have stayed together more, we would have done a lot better.”
Warren agreed, "We had a great start. If we could have carried that momentum it would have been a different game."
Things did not get any better as the second half got underway; Upper Perk was still chasing the ball instead of controlling it. The Rams cashed in on the pressure with another close-in goal by Major with 6:38 gone in the second half.
“Spring-Ford outworked us,” Warren said after the game. “They beat us to balls. I think they were a little quicker than we were. They were on us; they were moving.”
After Warren called a timeout with 10 minutes left, the now desperate Tribe sprang to life and finally got some pressure in the Spring-Ford end, forcing Dante Vagnoni to make a couple of saves.
Now it is on to the District 1 AA playoffs for the Tribe. Seeded second, Upper Perk drew a first round bye and will play their first district game today. Spring-Ford, meanwhile, was awarded the top seed in AAA.
While the loss to the Rams hurt, as did a recent 3-0 loss to Emmaus, Warren is confident her team has learned some things about following the game plan against top competition like “two of the strongest teams in the state, Spring-Ford and Emmaus.”
The coach flatly stated, “I think we have a good shot at the district title.”