Phantoms fall short in district title clash

Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville's Lauren Benner (2) vies for possession along with Villa Joseph Marie's Emily Yannotta (22) and Katie Bell (8).

NEWTOWN - Phoenixville’s remarkable girls soccer season came to a close with a 2-1 setback to powerful Villa Joseph Marie in the District 1-AA championship game Oct. 30 at Council Rock North High School’s Walt Snyder Stadium.

The Jems (15-2) captured their third straight district title while finishing the Phantoms’ season at 11-8-1 under first-year head coach Tim Raub. This was Phoenixville’s first trip to the district finals after reaching the district semifinals for the first time a year ago.

Cecilia Knaub scored Phoenixville’s goal at the 57th minute with an assist by Steph Schellberg. That made the score 2-1 at the time, which is the way the contest ended.

“To just come this far in the PAC-10s and districts is really an accomplishment for our team,” said Phoenixville senior captain Gia Tedesco. “We had a new coaching staff and some girls had to step up at positions we lost from last year. I am really happy with how we progressed.”

In the title game, Villa Joseph Marie’s Kristen Glaum scored in the ninth minute to force the Phantoms to play catchup early in the game. The first half ended that way. Then Alexa Fabbri scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the first five minutes of the second half.

“There was enough time left (to score), but sometimes you come up short,” said Knaub. “Early goals are tough, but it is not something we haven’t seen this season. We’ve been able to fight back, but you can only do it so many times before it catches up with you.”

Still, the Phantoms are justly proud of what they accomplished this season and are looking ahead to the future with a young crew that graduates just three starting seniors in goalie Bri Cooley, midfielder Tedesco and forward Hayley Riley. That creates great optimism for Raub and the Phantoms, who will try to build on this foundation next season and on down the road.

“We had great senior leadership on the field and off the field,” said Knaub. “We look good. We have a lot of young talent for next year who are experienced and returning. We should do better in PAC-10s and districts.”

Raub credited his players for their showing all season, including the district championship game.

“We did (give them everything they could handle),” said Raub. “I can’t fault the effort. We threw everthing at them. They (Jems) are a great team. They have won seven state titles. They have that type of tradition and history. They know what it takes.

“They have an advantage with their talent. They reload every year. These kids (Phantoms) are on their own. We have a much smaller roster. I am so proud of them. They should keep their heads held high.”

The Jems will start the state playoffs Tuesday, Nov. 5, against District 12 champion Archbishop Wood.

Raub said he intends to build a program that has girls playing soccer year-round in order to keep Phoenixville contending at a high level every year.