Central Bucks West defeats Canon-McMillan in overtime to claim PIAA Class AAA girls soccer crown
HERSHEY — Canon-McMillan girls soccer coach David Derrico doubted his players broke rules each time officials called fouls Saturday in the PIAA Class AAA championship at Hersheypark Stadium.
Central Bucks West coach Jorge Rodriguez acknowledged his players broke from traditional tactics to score.
A pair of free kicks taken by senior goalkeeper Grace Bendon from about 45 yards out immediately preceded second-half goals for the Bucks (20-6-1), who prevailed, 2-1, in overtime against the Lady Macs (19-5-1), who made their first state finals appearance.
Besides making three saves, Bendon became a key piece of C.B. West’s offense with her long-range blasts.
Her free kick with 10 minutes left in the first overtime period landed inside Canon-McMillan’s 18 and remained loose until Bucks sophomore Jillian Nolan buried a point-blank game-winner.
“We’ve been doing it since last year,” Rodriguez said of using Bendon for kicks. “It allows us to get an extra player up the field, so it’s not the most conventional thing to do, but when you have a player who can do it, it makes no sense not to use it.
“Looking at them a little more, we realized we could play with them. And the more we played, the more we realized they were beatable. … Even going into the second half down 1-0, I felt a lot more comfortable than before we started the game.”
A Bendon free kick in the final six minutes of regulation led to the game-tying goal for C.B. West.
The Lady Macs won the ball in the air with a header, but Bucks senior Shae McCarty stepped up and blasted a right-footed volley into the top-left corner of the net.
Derrico questioned the call that produced that free kick.
“There was no foul,” he said. “You guys can’t print what I’m feeling.”
Those late-game letdowns offset a surprising start for the Lady Macs, who led less than one minute into the contest.
Sophomore Sabrina Bryan, the Lady Macs’ leading scorer, popped a ball up and over Bendon from about 15 yards out just 31 seconds into the game. Her scoring opportunity followed a long ball over the top by senior defender Abigail Gillespie.
“It was an amazing feeling to get them on their toes right away,” Gillespie said. “It was difficult, too, because I was nervous that something bad would happen.”
Bendon, who stood a little too far from her goal line when Canon-Mac scored, remained an out-of-the-net presence as the game progressed.
She charged out of the goalmouth a half-dozen times to catch Lady Macs corner kicks and free kicks, most of which came in the first half.
“I did think that was a dream beginning,” Derrico said, “but you see how quickly a dream turns into a nightmare.”
Canon-McMillan, which started the WPIAL playoffs as a No. 10 seed before making a run to the WPIAL finals and PIAA finals, graduates just six seniors.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Gillespie said. “I don’t think anyone would think we’d get this far, and I’m glad that we proved people wrong.”