ROYERSFORD - Jason Short has coached quite a bit of girls soccer in the Phoenixville Area School District during the past decade, first at the middle school and then at the senior high school for the past five years.
During that time span he has witnessed a lot of players go through the Phantoms’ system. It has been a gradual progression while competing in the rugged Pioneer Athletic Conference.
Nevertheless, Phoenixville has established its own identity in the league and as a representative in postseason play. That concept did not waver despite a 3-0 setback to top-seeded Villa Joseph Marie from Lower Bucks County in the District 1-AA semfinals last Saturday afternoon at Spring-Ford High School’s Coach McNelly Stadium.
The fourth-seeded Phantoms saw their fine season come to a close at 10-7-2 overall after a 6-5-2 mark in the Frontier Division of the PAC-10.
Phoenixville surrendered one first-half goal and two second-half goals to the Jems, who carry with them a wealth of traditional excellence in Class AA girls soccer throughout Pennsylvania.
Goals by freshman midfielder Bridget Galen, sophomore midfielder/defender Emily Yannotta and sophomore midfielder/forward Taylor Stevens propelled the Jems into Monday’s district title game against second-seeded Gwynedd Mercy at Council Rock North High School at 7 p.m.
Only one Class AA team from District 1 will advance to the state tournament.
“It is obviously not the result any of us wanted,” said Short, who is assisted by Ashley Habbel and Kyle Young. “But I am very proud of what this team and their accomplishments. They have played better and gone further than any team I have had the privilege to coach. Their heads can be held high.”
Led by three instrumental seniors in goalkeeper Sara Gilbert (13 saves), midfielder Bailey Stover and center back defender Maddi Fritsche, the Phantoms played tough girls soccer against all foes throughout the fall season. They often struggled with finishing, but the Phantoms’ tenacity allowed them to stay in contention in virtually every game.
“They play this game well,” said Short. “I am excited for the seniors moving on to see if they play at the next level and for the returners next year. We have a lot to build on at this point.”
Galen hit a shot from the right side, about 15 yards away, to the high, far left of the net for Villa Joseph Marie’s first goal of the game at the 13th minute with an assist by senior midfielder Elizabeth Goldner.
The game remained that way throughout the rest of the first half. Yannotta converted with an assist by Taylor Stevens at the 44th minute mark of the contest. She made her kick from 15 yards out from a position in front of the net.
Stevens completed the scoring at the 58-minute mark with an assist by senior midfielder Deanna Stephens from the left side of the field.
Phoenixville managed just one shot on goal all day and that was by Gia Tedesco from close range on the left side in a collison with Jems junior goalie Caroline Gray with about six minutes left in the second half.
The Jems controlled possession throughout the fray and earned seven first-half corner kicks, which represented their total for the day. The Phantoms were awarded no corner kicks.
Tedesco also had Phoenixville’s best penetration during the first half of play with about seven minutes left until intermission.
Cecilia Knaub played an active game at midfield, and Steph Schellberg was busy with throw-ins from the near side of the field.
Maddi Fritsche made a free kick attempt in the 51st minute that was cleared by Jems sophomore defender Alexa Fabbri. Her younger sister, Katie Fritsche, and Lauren Benner had the Phantoms’ other best penetrations of the second half.