Phoenixville field hockey wins playoff opener, falls to Great Valley in quarters.
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.”
Phoenixville’s Cassidy Stevens, left, brings the ball upfield while Great Valley’s Steph Getz (4) tries to get her stick in.
Mackenzie Hilditch (6) celebrates with Katie Podell (21) after scoring a goal during Thursday’s district playoff game against Phoenixville.