by Tom Utescher
Last week the Germantown Friends girls soccer team capped off a successful season by appearing in two different postseason tournaments.
Going into the Friends Schools League playoffs with a league record of 5-1 (8-2 overall), the second-seeded Tigers topped visiting number three Moorestown Friends by a 2-0 count on Tuesday to reach the championship game.
Two days later at top-seeded Friends Central, GFS encountered a problem common to all of FC’s league rivals this fall, an inability to score on the Phoenix. Friends Central deposited the game’s only goal during the second half to post its second 1-0 win over GFS this season and claim the league championship.
The Tigers still weren’t done, though. They were into the second round of the Pa. Independent Schools Tournament, and saw their season come to an end on Saturday afternoon at the Hill School. Succumbing to the host Blues, 3-0, GFS ended the 2011 campaign with an overall record of 9-4.
Up through the FSL semifinals, sophomore goalie Caroline Myran logged eight shutouts, five of them in league play. In an August scrimmage the Tigers outscored neighboring Penn Charter, and in an official game they notched a 4-0 win over another Girls Inter-Ac League School, Agnes Irwin.
In last Tuesday’s semifinals the Tigers weren’t expecting a cakewalk; they had beaten Moorestown during the regular season but it was a 1-0 match. Germantown pushed up on offense and got off two threatening shots almost immediately.
The Foxes forged into the GFS half occasionally, but junior defender Sophie Mercuris was very active in the back and helped break up the assaults by the visitors. Senior Eve Maxson proved to be a vital link in the Tigers’ transition game, as she brought the ball up the right wing time after time.
Germantown enjoyed a 1-0 halftime lead thanks to a goal that came off a corner kick with 16:18 remaining in the opening period. Senior Iris Williamson put the ball in play from the right corner, delivering it to Maxson in the middle at the 18-yard line. Maxson threaded a pass into the center of the box for sophomore Rachel Allison, who turned and fired the ball into the Foxes’ den.
The Tigers added an insurance goal in the first minute of the second half. Williamson, a University of Pennsylvania lacrosse recruit who happened to be celebrating her 18th birthday on the day of the league semifinal, carried the ball 50 yards through much of the Moorestown team to stick the 2-0 final tally on the scoreboard.
Moorestown frequently tried to advance down the right flank in hopes of breaking the shutout, but the Foxes often found their way barred by Germantown junior Katherine Walden. The visitors did manage to test Myran with six minutes left in the game, but the sophomore made a diving save to preserve her shutout.
On Thursday Germantown encountered a Friends Central squad led on defense by goalie Meghan Cartafalsa, who has shut out every league opponent this season.
“It’s not just her; they’re very well organized in the back,” pointed out GFS coach Sam McIlvaine. “That being said, I don’t think Friends Central played one of their strongest games against us. We had a lot of scoring opportunities and we just weren’t able to finish.”
The Tigers had near misses from, Maxson, sophomore Claire Schmidt, and freshmen Brigit Andersson and Sophia Linguiti, among others.
Friends Central only got off one shot in the first period, according to McIlvaine.
In the second half, he said, “We’d been in their half most of the time, but they came down and got a restart in a dangerous position. They’re good on their set pieces, and they got the ball into a crowd in front of our goal and one of their girls [Josephine Fisher] headed it in.”
After that final close loss in the league, GFS headed to Hill School on Saturday for a second-round game against the Blues, who had beaten the Tigers 3-2 during the regular season.
“They were the only team that was able to score that many goals against us,” said McIlvaine, whose squad yielded six goals in two games to the Pottstown team, while not allowing more than one in any other single contest. “They have a very fast forward up top and they know how to get her the ball.”
Again, GFS enjoyed a lot of ball possession, but couldn’t penetrate their rivals’ goalcage. This was in stark contrast to the Tigers’ Indy Tournament opener on October 27, when they emptied their bench and had seven different players score in an 11-0 victory over Perkiomen School.
Hill’s quick-strike ability quickly became apparent as the Blues rushed upfield to score in the aftermath of a Germantown corner kick. In the second half, a defensive miscue by the Tigers led to another goal by Hill, who later slipped in a third as Lizzie Sullvian finished the day with two goals and Deana Mayza with one.
“We couldn’t get around the ends so we couldn’t attack from the flanks, and that hurt us,” McIlvaine said. “We had to shoot from distance and we were off-target.”
Very few teams get to win their final games in a given season, and overall the Tigers had a successful 2011 campaign.
“We didn’t have great speed and our play one-on-one might not have been spectacular, but we played quite well collectively,” McIlvaine said. “Even with a lot of young girls joining the mix, this was a close-knit, cohesive team and the girls stayed focused in games and in practices. I think a lot of that is due to outstanding leadership from our senior captains, Iris [Williamson] and Alex [Clarke, a senior center back].”
The Tigers’ skipper summed up, “It was a nice balance of hard work and fun.”