Seen here going up for a head ball, sophomore Sarah Walker was a key link in the GFS midfield this season. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Seen here going up for a head ball, sophomore Sarah Walker was a key link in the GFS midfield this season. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

For the third season in a row, the girls of Germantown Friends School advanced through the Friends School League playoffs to meet Friends Central in the championship game, but unfortunately for the team and its supporters, the third time wasn’t the charm for the Tigers.

As in 2011 and 2012, only one goal was scored in last Saturday’s title bout, with host FC prevailing for the third straight year after netting a shot off a rebound midway through the first half.

The Phoenix had been the top seed for the tournament, but in the semifinal round of the playoffs last Tuesday, they had to resort to penalty kicks to advance past number four Westtown School, 2-1. The same afternoon, third-seeded GFS found the back of the net at George School during the second period, dispatching the number three Cougars, 1-0.

For Germantown Friends (7-5-3 overall) and their FSL colleagues, the journey through the regular season was a rigorous ride. The Tigers defeated Westtown, Moorestown, Friends, and Abington Friends, lost a match to George School, and came away with a pair of 0-0 ties against Friends Central and Shipley School.

Even the Phoenix, the eventual three-time champions, had a second tie on their regular-season ledger, battling to a draw with Westtown the first time out.

For last week’s semifinal, Germantown had to return to George School’s Newtown campus, the site of their lone league setback (0-1).

“We went out there prepared and determined to get into the championship game,” said second-year GFS head coach Adrian Cox.

“We scored with about 17 minutes to go in the second half,” the coach went on. “Sophia Linguiti hit a nice through ball to set up a fast break for Taryn Millbourne. After that we protected the lead without too much trouble; we kept the play in front of us pretty much the rest of the way.”

Both Linguiti and Millbourne are juniors. Their senior teammate, veteran goalkeeper Caroline Myran, made six saves for the shutout, a total she would duplicate in the FSL finals three days later.

Around the middle of the first half of Friday’s contest, a strong FC shot resulted in a rebound in front of the Tigers’ cage, and Phoenix sophomore Jesse Rubin ran onto the loose ball and put it away.

“We responded very well after giving up that goal,” noted Germantown’s Cox. “I thought we controlled most of the play in the second half and generated a number of opportunities around their goal. We had two very good chances, but we couldn’t crack the net.”

“One of them,” he related, “came off a cross from our left back, Claire Schmidt, who put the ball in the box for a charging Rachel Allison [both are seniors]. She hit a head ball low into the corner and their keeper [Caroline Fakharzadeh] made a brilliant diving stop that may have saved the game for them. Another time, Taryn Millbourne had a clear look at the goal inside the box, and she put her shot just a little wide of the post. Our defense played well and we didn’t give up a lot of shots; they just got that one to go in.”

The FSL final didn’t spell an end to the Tigers season. They are participating in the Pa. Independent Schools Championships, which get underway this week. Cox is hoping his squad can cash in on some more of the offensive opportunities its creates; as seen from the team’s scores, the defense has been solid all along.

Myran, who already began seeing some varsity action as an eighth-grader, is obviously a key performer in the back, as is her classmate, Allison.

“Rachel has been an integral part of our program, and she helps organize everyone on defense,” Cox said. “One of our other seniors, Claire Schmidt, has grown into the left back position nicely, and Greta Meyer [a junior] is just a strong all-round athlete who can do a lot of things on the field. At center mid, Sarah Walker [a sophomore] has consistently been able to beat opposing players one-on-one. Sophia Linguiti and Emma Wagner [a junior] have also been key pieces of the GFS soccer program this season.”