Just shy of one year ago, Abington Heights defeated Paupack 5-1 for the 2012 AAA girls soccer title at Marywood University.
While the place was different this year, the contestants were the same. For the second season in a row the Lady Buckhorns were squaring off versus the Lady Comets in the title tilt.
Although they were the number two seed, Abington was the five-time defending champion and had beaten Paupack during the regular season.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that in spite of their hard work and top spot in the playoffs, the Lady Bucks were still viewed by some as an underdog.
On a rain soaked Memorial Field Halloween night, that would all change.
The Lady Buckhorns took control of the game early.
Although the Comets made some advances, Paupack held tough and largely kept the ball in the Abington zone for most of the first part of the opening period.
No one Buckhorn player shined over another as literally every girl got in on the action.
Between the posts, Irene Dispenza scooped up a save. Molly Jansco and Brianna Denniston tied up Comet strikers; Taylor Ruziecki swept up the backfield, and Tori Ciszak tackled attackers and supported the Paupack advance.
Bridgette Mann, Jahmia Bridges, Hope Decker and Raeann Ehrhardt dominated play in the center while Skylar Wirth and Nick Mann led the assault up front.
Abington Heights marked many of the Paupack stars and prevented them from making any goals.
Busy focusing on the usual suspects, Gretchen Hiller found some space, took a shot, and bounced it into the Abington net for her first varsity goal of the season, with 11:42 left in the first half.
Page 2 of 3 - The Bucks battled hard to maintain the 1-0 lead and staved off the Comets for the rest of the period.
Following the break both teams came out with fever.
The Comets struck hard a few times getting in a couple shots on Dispenza, but most often than not they were repelled by Ciszak before they could get set up.
Moving players around to other positions, Abington brought Isabelle Clauss forward. Tapped to maintain a watch on her, Nicki Mann fell back and Decker shifted forward for Paupack, taking up residence on the left wing.
While she didn't land any goals, Decker plowed her way deep into the Comets' zone no less than six times and taking at least three shots.
While the Purple & White gave it their all up front, the back played smart and chewed up the clock as well.
With Abington on one last attack, the final grains of sand trickled through the hourglass and with them went the Comets' hopes for a sixth district title.
"Hope stepped right up when I fell back to guard Clauss," Nicki Mann said.
"I tried to get a shot past their defenders every time," added Decker, "but I was really trying to waste time and keep the ball in their part of the field."
For the Buckhorn lasses, this was the culmination of season's worth of drills, scrimmages, conditioning, and well played games.
While pleased with the 1-0 win, Coach Alicia Sodano explained that Hiller's goal came from capitalizing on a good opportunity.
"I struck the ball hard," said Hiller. "I thought the keeper had it at first but then saw it slip through her hands and into the goal."
Page 3 of 3 - "Our girls played great and really wanted it," Sodano stated.
"Abington is a great team and I think we were equal on skills, but it came down to heart. We played with heart and played together. Greatness happens when all hearts beat as one."
Capturing the district title gives Paupack the lone District 2 spot in the AAA state tourney.
The Lady Bucks now have their eyes fixed on a bigger prize and set their sights on Hershey.