Sites heads Spring-Ford into PAC fi­nal with OT win over Potts­grove

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

Claire Sites knew the num­ber off the top of her head.

“We lost 19 peo­ple,” the Spring-Ford se­nior cen­ter back said. “It’s dif­fer­ent, but it’s good. I think peo­ple are step­ping up this year. New coaches, new team, a dif­fer­ent dy­namic and dif­fer­ent way we’re play­ing. But it’s work­ing for us.”

In­deed, the Spring-Ford girls soc­cer team looks quite a bit dif­fer­ent than last year’s it­er­a­tion. But the re­sults are speak­ing for them­selves – thanks in part to an­other good use for the top of Sites’ head.

The se­nior cen­ter back’s head was a true dif­fer­ence­maker in the Rams’ Pioneer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal against Potts­grove Tues­day night. Sites scored two goals via header, in­clud­ing the golden goal game-win­ner in the first over­time as Spring-Ford turned away Potts­grove, 3-2, to ad­vance to the league cham­pi­onship game.

Even with the de­par­ture of last year’s ac­com­plished class, this fall’s Spring-Ford team can claim some­thing the 2017 edi­tion could not: ad­vanc­ing to the PAC fi­nal.

The Rams meet de­fend­ing cham­pion Owen J. Roberts – a 3-0 win­ner over Pope John Paul II in the other semi­fi­nal – at 5 p.m. Thurs­day night at Owen J. Roberts.

The two most no­table car­ry­overs from the 2017 Rams that reached the fi­nal eight of the state con­nected twice for goals as Sites scored on set piece de­liv­er­ies from ju­nior Ella Curry, who was within inches of a goal her­self when she hit the left post in the first half. Sopho­more sub­sti­tute Alyssa Hardin – as­sisted by Hope Flane­gin – scored the Rams’ sec­ond goal that lev­eled the match 2-2 in the sec­ond half af­ter Potts­grove took a some­what im­prob­a­ble 2-1 lead on Sky­lar Glass’ sec­ond goal with 32 min­utes to play in reg­u­la­tion.

In the team’s first PAC Fi­nal Four ap­pear­ance, Potts­grove ac­quit­ted it­self ex­cel­lently af­ter a ten­ta­tive start. Glass cap­i­tal­ized on an er­rant back pass to tie the game 1-1 in the 21st minute, against the run of play. But in the sec­ond half and over­time, the Fal­cons, which got strong per­for­mances from Hai­ley Strain, Lexi Zook, Hannah Phillips (de­fen­sive save in first half) and goal­keeper Sum­mer Walker (11 saves) grew into the game and went toe-to-toe with a Spring-Ford pro­gram that is among the most dec­o­rated in the state over the past five years.

“For the first time here and a team with one se­nior, I was very happy with the per­for­mance,” Potts­grove head coach Steve Mel­lor said. “It’s a bit dis­ap­point­ing to have had a lead in the sec­ond half es­pe­cially af­ter get­ting that one back, get­ting a lit­tle lucky on Sky­lar’s first goal. We changed for­ma­tions a bit and I thought it could have been 3-1 right af­ter Sky­lar’s sec­ond but we weren’t able to fin­ish.”

The Fal­cons had two great chances af­ter tak­ing the lead, one from Glass, the other on a nice counter with Strain, Glass and Emily Vishio, who got an ex­cel­lent re­cov­ery save out of S-F goal­keeper Ri­ley Wal­lace (2 saves) to keep it a one-goal game.

Once Spring-Ford got back on level terms through Hardin, it felt like it was the like­lier team to get the win. Seem­ingly, they just needed an­other chance for Sites to use her height ad­van­tage and ver­sa­tile head again.

“It was good com­pe­ti­tion tonight,” Sites said. I think some of us might not have been ex­pect­ing Potts­grove to step up like they did, so I think it was a re­ally good game. Ku­dos to them for their work and great sea­son.”

AUSTIN HERTZOG — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Spring-Ford’s Claire Sites (10), cen­ter, is con­grat­u­lated af­ter scor­ing the game-win­ning goal in over­time of the Rams’ 3-2 win over Potts­grove in the PAC semi­fi­nals Tues­day at Owen J. Roberts.

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