Linfield >> Three new starters on the backline and a forward line that needed to replace a slew of graduated goal scorers.
Dealbreaker for the 2014 field hockey season for Avon Grove?
Nope, not even close. With Avon Grove facing elimination in the first round of the District 1 Class AAA playoffs for the third-straight year, Mary Gould took her turn to play hero, netting the game-winner on a beautifully executed penalty corner with four minutes remaining in the first overtime period to lift the Red Devils over No. 10 Methacton 1-0 Monday at the Training Center, home of the WC Eagles.
Veteran goalkeeper Emily Carroll was a stalwart in net, stopping 13 Warriors’ shots while the backline consisting of Madelyn Hudson, Mollie Smith and Kaylee Hanway and Rebecca Waite stood tall, holding the Warriors without a goal for only the fifth time this season.
And again, head coach Sandy Leiti saw a different player from the forward line step up when needed.
“We lost a bunch of goal scorers last year,” Leiti said. “Our forward line has really been stood out for us. It’s not one kid we’re relying on. It’s four of them, five of them, six of them that have been making things happen.”
Avon Grove will face No. 7 Phoenixville in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Phoenixville’s Bailey Quinn lifted the Phantoms to a 5-4 overtime victory over No. 27 Quakertown by converting on a penalty stroke early in the first overtime period.
Methacton (13-7, 8-5 PAC-10), meanwhile, closed out the season as losers of three of its last four games. Sammi Steele, however, was brilliant in the cage as she registered 13 saves, none better than the diving stick save on a Lexie Dixson offering eight minutes into the second half.
“She stepped up big,” Methacton head coach Sarah Quintois said. “She’s a gamer, she works hard all the time and makes things happen.
“It’s a different game in districts, anything goes, anything can happen. And that’s what happened today.”
For Avon Grove (13-7), it was all about savoring the victory, one that marks the initial second-round appearance since the Red Devils lost to eventual champion Owen J. Roberts in 2011.
“It’s great,” Leiti said. “(Making the second round) is something that we’ve been working hard for. It’s been our goal ever since the second round against Owen J. Roberts a few years ago. So to actually get there, I think speaks volumes of our team and the dedication and hard work that they have put in all season.”
That hard work showed in overtime.
The Red Devils peppered Steele with three shots in the beginning stages of the half, before earning two penalty corners in a two minute span.
The second corner was the dealbreaker for Methacton.
Gould hit a perfectly placed insert to Abigail Pinto, who quickly dished it off to Rebecca Waite at her left. Seeing Steele creep up the circle, Waite hit a beautiful through ball to the right post to Sophie Werner — whose cross was easily tapped in by the Gould.
What followed was euphoric. Gould was mobbed by Olivia D’Antonio and Pinto, Werner flopped to the turf in disbelief before the rest of the Red Devils squad mobbed the team at the opposing cage.
“We played really well against a tough team and were doing real well with keeping our composure in the first round of districts,” Gould said after her teammates showed her video of her game-winning goal.
“It was everybody’s work,” she continued. “It was a beautiful pass and I was lucky enough to be able to tap it in.”
“That corner is pretty much what we’ve been executing and practicing all this week,” Leiti said. “Working on that post, working on the cross in front of the cage, getting behind their goalkeeper because we knew she was solid — that was going to be where our opportunities came from if we could draw her out.”
Now, three new starting backs, a veteran goalie and an opportunistic forward line move on in the hopes of prove themselves a little bit more.
“There’s always that little bit of a rivalry between the PAC-10 and the Ches-Mont,” Leiti said. “The Ches-Mont was real strong this year with seven teams coming on. We just want to prove how strong, especially that National side of Ches-Mont is, and show everyone what Ches-Mont field hockey is all about.”