The Garnet Valley girls soccer season was going nowhere fast.
With the calendar having changed to October and the Jaguars treading water to the tune of a 5-4-4 record, an internal consensus had been reached: Something had to change for the Jaguars if they had any hope of repeating last year’s playoff run, one which included the program’s first playoff win.
It was against West Chester East that switch finally flipped.
“I think the game that was a really big turning point was WC East,” said central defender Jordan Ireland last Tuesday. “That’s when we got their momentum and we were able to beat them on their senior night, so I know that pumped us up. We scored some goals and had a nice flow in that game, so I think that got us amped up and ready to go for the end of the season.”
The 2-1, overtime win against the Vikings courtesy of Haley Warden’s goal was not only a big nonleague coup, against the team they topped in the opening round of districts last season no less. It also set the Jaguars on course for a four-game winning and seven-game unbeaten streak to close the season, one that has them sitting pretty for districts qualification.
The Jaguars (9-4-4, 5-2-4 Central League) sit fourth in the Central among Class AAA team (Harriton is Class AA). Reigning District One champs Strath Haven are first, likely to get a district seed, followed by Conestoga and Haverford (7-3-1 in the league), both very likely to get in. The District One seeding meeting is scheduled for Sunday morning.
After that comes the question marks, but Garnet Valley head coach Paul Costa believes that the nonleague slate his team navigated – including wins over Avon Grove, Henderson, Kennett and East – is sufficient to get them in. Add a draw with Harriton and a signature win last week over Conestoga thanks to Rachel Glenn’s goal, and you have a team likely to repeat its playoff opportunity of a year ago.
“I think that it was definitely a hard turnaround to try and make sure we stay focused and make sure we try to build off of last year and not also base our season on last year,” said Warden after scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Upper Darby Tuesday. “We started with a very young team, and we just brought it all together and worked really hard from the beginning.”
“I know we wanted to get a playoff game because we wanted to have the same feeling as we had last year,” Ireland said. “We wanted to get that, maybe a home playoff game at our stadium, and get that energy because I know that felt good. But the goal was always for us to get a playoff game, and I feel like we’ve worked pretty hard for it.”
The jury is still out on Springfield, though. The Cougars (7-4-3) sit behind Garnet Valley with a 5-4-2 mark in the Central League. Since league order is preserved in seeding, the Jags nonleague power works to their advantage if it gets them on the board sooner.
There are holes in the Cougars’ resume. Their only nonleague wins this season have come against Chichester and Interboro plus a draw with Great Valley in the first game of the season. Scheduled tilts against Bishop Shanahan and Phoenixville were cancelled, leaving the Cougars with just 16 games this season.
Still the mood if hopeful, but the desperation attached to Saturday afternoon’s meeting with Owen J. Roberts – one which head coach Lindsay Rowland called “do-or-die” – is clear.
“There’s excitement, but we’re also hopeful that we actually get into the playoffs,” Rowland said Saturday prior to the Owen J. game. “The girls have worked hard. I think they deserve it.”
Beneath them, Penncrest (11-6-0, 5-5-1 Central) is hoping that Springfield gets on the board quickly. The overall record is impressive, but the nonleague teams over which it was amassed – Merion Mercy, Sun Valley, Kennett, Henderson, Chichester, Interboro – are less than sterling. Within the league, they lacked a signature result, the closest they came a 3-2 overtime loss to Conestoga.