ARCHBALD – Just when Holy Redeemer needed to hit the panic button, Valley View's soccer field quickly turned into one gigantic Slip 'n Slide.
Both Valley View and Holy Redeemer sloshed and slid through the wet pitch that had finally met its match after 80 minutes of downpour.
The Cougars figured out just how to curtail the Royals' possession-oriented ball club – force it into playing in a bogged-down mess.
With the help of Mother Nature, Valley View edged Holy Redeemer by a 2-1 margin Tuesday in the District 2 Class 2A play-in game. The Cougars advance to the first round of the districts where they will visit top-seeded and undefeated Berwick.
It hurt both teams, Holy Redeemer coach Bob Hughes said. For us, we're a control-the-ball team. It hurt us with possession and cutting. We depend on the long shot, and it was hard for us to do that in these conditions. It didn't hurt them quite as much.
The first one minute, 20 seconds of the second half proved the difference.
After a back-and-forth first half yielded a scoreless tie, the Cougars came out of halftime with an offensive assault, scoring two goals within 30 seconds of each other. Valley View's Carli Lucke contained the ball in the left corner, crossed to Emily Kotche. Kotche dished the ball to Olivia Bartkowski who punched in the game's first goal – 40 seconds into the half.
Twenty-nine seconds later, Julia Gillow marched down the field and fired the Cougars' second goal from 30 yards out.
I don't know why it happened, Hughes said. We talk about it all of the time. We came out a little flat, gave up a goal. I think the girls were a little shocked and gave up the next one. Other than that, I thought we controlled most of the game.
The mood of the Royals' camp ultimately improved, rebounding nicely from the brief spell of pressure. Holy Redeemer retained possession and controlled momentum for the majority of the second half.
At the 49-minute mark, an Alyssia Christian cross was met by Olivia Gregorio. Gregorio baited Valley View goalkeeper Jessica Nguyen and assisted to Emily Schramm, setting up the sophomore midfielder's 15th goal of the season.
The Royals' Lydia Lawson came inches away from tying the game on two consecutive occasions in the 69th and 70th minutes.
Ultimately, field conditions changed drastically and neither team was able to attain meaningful possession in the final five minutes.
The Royals' turn-around from a 3-10 record in the spring to a 9-4-1 playoff team in the fall is noteworthy given the team's overall youth. Of the team's 11 starters, it fielded just one upperclassman.
First half: No scoring
Second half: 1. VV, Olivia Bartkowski (Emily Katcho), 41st minute; 2. VV, Julia Gillow, 42nd; 3. HR, Emily Schramm (Olivia Gregorio, Alyssa Christian), 49th
Shots: HR 9, VV 16; Saves: HR 8 (Emily Becker), VV 5 (Jessica Nguyen); Corners: HR 5, VV 4