MILLTOWN — For Saint Mark’s to get back to the DIAA Division II girls soccer championship game for the third consecutive season, the Spartans would have to get through an opponent who defeated them during the regular season. They did just that, battling past Wilmington Friends, 4-2, on May 31 on their home turf.
The Quakers, seeded third in the Division II tournament, had shut out the No. 2 Spartans on May 8, but it wouldn’t take long for the Spartans to get on the board in the semifinal.
A corner kick in the fourth minute went directly to Quakers keeper Eleanor Driscoll, but the Spartans earned another just a minute later. This time, the inbounds pass from Lily Phillips found the head of Ava Frohnapfel, who sent the ball to the left of the keeper for the early lead.
Phillips, who recently returned to the lineup after suffering an injury, would have a busy day for the second straight game. She had a goal and four assists against Odessa in the previous round.
The Spartans kept the pressure on, but Friends equalized in the 21st. Sofia Dattani took a pass outside the 18-yard box to the right of Spartans goalkeeper Marissa Cirillo. Dattani’s cross met a rushing Reagan Brady, and she redirected it into the net to make it 1-1.
The Spartans tried to answer immediately, but a shot by Katie Lennon smacked off the crossbar above Driscoll. The Quakers eventually cleared the ball out of bounds.
The action settled down after that for several minutes except for a stellar sliding save for Driscoll in the 25th. Friends picked up its first corner kick in the 31st, but they didn’t score.
The Spartans went back on the offensive late in the first, and Phillips was involved again. She sent a through ball to Whitney Evancho, who pushed her way through a few defenders before sending a left-footed shot into the upper 90 to the right of Driscoll. Saint Mark’s took the 2-1 lead into the half.
The action moved toward the middle of the field in the second half, although both Driscoll and Cirillo were called on to make a few stops. Saint Mark’s finally got an insurance goal in the 59th on what may have been the prettiest goal of the afternoon.
A Spartans defender stopped the Quakers from getting into the 18-yard box in front of Cirillo and sent a pass to Phillips. She weaved her way upfield until she spotted Katie Lennon charging hard down the left side. By the time Lennon caught up to the ball, she was at a sharp angle to Driscoll’s right. Lennon took a left-footed swing and knocked the ball into the far side of the net.
That was a key tally. The Quakers pushed back, forcing Cirillo to make a save in the 66th and another in the 68th off a corner kick. Finally, in the last few minutes, Giuliana DiPrinzio took a pass from Dattani, and from about 35 yards out, lofted a shot that glanced off the gloves of Cirillo and into the net.
The celebration was short-lived, however. A Friends kick toward the Spartans’ net was intercepted by Giana DiFebbo. Her high clearing kick bounced over the mass of players near midfield to Phillips, who just turned and popped the ball up toward Driscoll. The ball took a high hop in front of the advancing keeper, and it went off her fingertips into the net for the final goal.
Final statistics were not available early Thursday morning. Saint Mark’s, who improved to 15-2, will meet No. 4 Archmere in the championship match on Friday at 6 p.m. at Alumni Stadium on the campus of Delaware State University in Dover. The Spartans defeated the Auks in April.
Wilmington Friends ended the season 14-2-1. Their other loss was to Archmere.
All photos by Mike Lang.