Ma­cLeod scores late to lift OJR past Spring-Ford, 1-0

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By Austin Hert­zog ahert­zog@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @AustinHert­zog on Twit­ter

ROYERSFORD » You’ve prob­a­bly never seen a game-win­ning cel­e­bra­tion like this.

There was Kylee Ma­cLeod down on the turf, a look of agony on her face with team­mates all around, smiles turn­ing to looks of con­cern.

The Owen J. Roberts se­nior mid­fielder knew she’d con­nected with the header, but right now all she could think about was the shoot­ing pain in her calf.

“As soon as I hit it off my head my leg cramped,” Ma­cLeod said. “I’m on the ground and the first thing I asked was, ‘Did it go in?’”

Ma­cLeod may have been the last to know, but that was no prob­lem as the Owen J. Roberts girls soc­cer team con­tin­ued its un­beaten start to the sea­son with a 1-0 over­time vic­tory at Spring-Ford in what has be­come the Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence’s mar­quee matchup.

Owen J. Roberts, the de­fend­ing PAC cham­pion who reached the PIAA Class 4A semi­fi­nals a year ago, is off to an im­pres­sive 8-0 (4-0 PAC Lib­erty) start. SpringFord fell to 3-2 (2-1) but pre­sented a real change for the Wild­cats de­spite hav­ing so many new faces af­ter last year’s se­nior-stacked squad.

Ma­cLeod’s header from a Bai­ley Hunt cor­ner kick lofted per­fectly over SpringFord goal­keeper Ri­ley Wal­lace and into the top left cor­ner of goal with 11.8 sec­onds re­main­ing in the first over­time pe­riod.

“I’m ec­static. I can’t be­lieve that just hap­pened with 11.8 sec­onds to go,” Hunt said. “I knew we were go­ing to win, I just had that feel­ing.”

Hunt has been on a scor­ing tear so far this sea­son while mak­ing the most of her in­creased play­ing time as a se­nior. It’s im­pos­si­ble to re­place the out­put of PAC scor­ing queen Ma­hogany Willis (37 goals last sea­son), but Hunt is cer­tainly do­ing her part in the front three with Sarah Kopec and Han­nah De­la­haye.

“I’m just so happy I can do it with my team,” Hunt said. “It’s peo­ple I’ve grown up play­ing with so it’s been won­der­ful.”

In­deed, much of the OJR first XI plays on the same club team, the WestMont United Magic, in­clud­ing Hunt, Ma­cLeod, Mia Baum­garten, Gretchen Harken and Ken­zie Milne.

Ma­cLeod, ar­guably the best re­turn­ing player in the PAC who is headed to Kutz­town, got a valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence over the sum­mer on an­other team, the Le­high Val­ley Tem­pest. The Tem­pest play in the Women’s Premier Soc­cer League and fea­tures mostly col­lege play­ers look­ing to stay sharp in the sum­mer months.

“That was scary,” Ma­cLeod said of the in­tro­duc­tion to the Tem­pest’s level of play. “You come in and are against th­ese brutes. You get hit and get hit and it’s just a level of speed that I try to carry here. It’s in­com­pa­ra­ble.”

The Wild­cats may have been the ones headed home happy, but Spring-Ford, un­der new coach Mo Ha­didi, car­ried a real threat to put a tally in OJR’s loss col­umn. Ella Curry, Hope Flane­gin, Devin Raw­ley and Molly Thomas led things on the at­tack.

“It’s a young group com­pared to the last bunch of years where it was all se­niors,” Ha­didi said. “We’re try­ing play­ers with­out ex­pe­ri­ence but they re­ally work to­gether and there’s no bad feel­ings about who misses or who didn’t. They work and give each other mo­ti­va­tion.”

Spring-Ford has more to fig­ure out with not nearly as much con­ti­nu­ity as Mon­day’s op­po­nent.

“When you play three or four years to­gether you un­der­stand ev­ery sin­gle step and know each other as a group,” Ha­didi said. “But I like what I see. We have things to work on, but we’ll come back stronger.”

Af­ter OJR’s Hunt played a pair of dan­ger­ous crosses in the open­ing min­utes of the game, chances were at a pre­mium through­out. The Wild­cats did not put enough shots on frame while the Rams needed a bit more con­nec­tion in the fi­nal third. Their best chance came when Ally McVey car­ried the ball down the right side, passed across goal and found Raw­ley, who struck a good shot that was saved by OJR keeper Saman­tha Hughes (six saves) with 12:30 re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion.

Yet it only takes one chance and there was no one bet­ter than OJR’s new undis­puted leader.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Owen J. Roberts’ Kylee Ma­cLeod (15) slide-tack­les the ball away from Spring-Ford’s Ella Curry dur­ing their match Mon­day at Spring-Ford.

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