Phoenixville field hockey wins play­off opener, falls to Great Val­ley in quar­ters.

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Nash tnash@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Thomas_Nash10 on Twit­ter

EAST WHITE­LAND >> The Great Val­ley field hockey team threw its head coach the per­fect go­ing away party on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Open­ing the game with a goal 21 sec­onds in, then us­ing a five-goal sec­ond half, the Pa­tri­ots se­cured a con­vinc­ing 7-0 win over Phoenixville dur­ing the quar­ter­fi­nal round of the Dis­trict 1 Class 2A play­offs.

Head coach Mad­die Craig, a teacher in the Great Val­ley school dis­trict, is step­ping away from her po­si­tion this week as she moves to New Jer­sey in or­der to be closer to her fam­ily. On that note she’ll fin­ish out the fall sea­son on the side­lines with the Great Val­ley field hockey team.

Though she ad­mits she’s not ready for the sea­son to come to a close any time soon.

“I’m happy to be out here for an­other game with this team,” said Craig af­ter the win. “We have the best crew. They make my day ev­ery sin­gle day.”

With Thurs­day’s re­sult, the fourth-seeded Pa­tri­ots (15-5 over­all) bought their head coach plenty more days this fall sea­son.

Great Val­ley ad­vanced to the semi­fi­nal round of the dis­trict play­offs and earned an au­to­matic bid into next month’s PIAA Class 2A play­offs for the sec­ond straight sea­son. The Pa­tri­ots will host No. 8 Me­rion Mercy — a sur­prise 1-0 win­ner over top-seeded Rad­nor — in the dis­trict semi­fi­nals on Tues­day.

No. 5 Phoenixville (154-1) will drop into the dis­trict play­backs, where four teams will duke it out for one state berth. The first do-or-die game comes Tues­day at top-seeded Rad­nor.

The Pa­tri­ots’ of­fense got out to a fast start on the game.

On the open­ing pos­ses­sion, Ai­dan Dra­bick found the stick of Tessa Lib­er­atosci­oli wait­ing on the left side of the cage to give Great Val­ley a lead 21 sec­onds in.

“That’s not some­thing that hap­pens for us ev­ery game,” said Lib­er­atosci­oli, who fin­ished with two goals on the af­ter­noon. “Def­i­nitely the start we were look­ing for. We want to keep this go­ing as long as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially for our coach.”

That goal set the tone and it showed, es­pe­cially late in the first half.

Af­ter both teams spent the first 30 min­utes trad­ing good looks at the goal, Gil­lian La­cobucci found her­self with a nearly per­fect look.

The for­ward se­cured the ball off an in­set pass from Dra­bick then fired one left side of the cage to give Great Val­ley a 2-0 lead with 36 sec­onds left in the half.

Then, less than a minute into the sec­ond half, Dra­bick fin­ished an aerial to ex­tend the Great Val­ley lead to 3-0.

“It took us a lit­tle bit to click but then once we did we played a re­ally nice pass­ing game, es­pe­cially in the cir­cle,” said Craig. “That’s where most of our goals came from, pass­ing in­side the cir­cle.”

Five min­utes af­ter Dra­bick’s first score, Lib­er­atosci­oli se­cured the ball at mid­field and weaved her way through traf­fic into the front of the Phoenixville cage. From there, she had the ball poked loose by a de­fender, but was able to se­cure it again and send a shot past the keeper for her sec­ond goal with 24:11 left.

All through­out the sec­ond half, Phoenixville cre­ated plenty of chances in front of the Great Val­ley goal. The Phan­toms just couldn’t get a clean look at the cage, even de­spite hold­ing an 8-6 ad­van­tage in penalty cor­ners for the af­ter­noon.

“We had sev­eral missed op­por­tu­ni­ties that we didn’t cap­i­tal­ize on,” said Phoenixville head coach Claire Hamp­ton. “When you get into dis­tricts and you’re play­ing qual­ity teams, you have to cap­i­tal­ize on your op­por­tu­ni­ties. And other teams will cap­i­tal­ize on your mis­takes. Great Val­ley did that, they cap­i­tal­ized on our mis­takes.”

Great Val­ley closed out the scor­ing with a goal from Alex Thomas with 14 min­utes to go be­fore Macken­zie Hilditch fin­ished a pair in the fi­nal 10 min­utes to make it a 7-0 game.

Phoenixville drops into the play­back round for the sec­ond straight sea­son. Last fall, the Phan­toms’ state play­off hopes were ended right on the doorstep when they lost 2-0 against Me­rion Mercy in the fifth-place game.

Hamp­ton is look­ing for­ward to her team find­ing a way to bounce back from Thurs­day’s loss and get in to a sim­i­lar po­si­tion again this year.

“We need to pick our­selves up and let this one go,” she said. “We need to go back to prac­tice and do the things that we know we can do suc­cess­fully, and put them back into play in games. We play nicely to­gether. We just need to find each other on our passes and find the cage on our shots.

“It’s not over. We can be suc­cess­ful in the play­backs. I know we have an­other op­por­tu­nity, so we’ll work hard.”

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Phoenixville’s Cas­sidy Stevens, left, brings the ball up­field while Great Val­ley’s Steph Getz (4) tries to get her stick in.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Macken­zie Hilditch (6) cel­e­brates with Katie Podell (21) af­ter scor­ing a goal dur­ing Thurs­day’s dis­trict play­off game against Phoenixville.

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