TOWAMENCIN >> It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win and in many ways, a game Pennridge needed.
The Rams’ girls soccer team bested a game North Penn side 2-1 Tuesday evening at North Penn, managing to outlast a Knights team that was creating all kinds of chances and problems in the second half. A goal by senior Melissa Lyon 45 seconds into the second half proved the eventual winner, but it wasn’t without a lack of panic-inducing moments.
“We were struggling matching up with (North Penn)’s outside mids and we tried to fix that,” Rams coach Audrey Anderson said. “We haven’t really been in the situation where we had a lot of pressure put on us in an entire half so I think it caught us a little off-guard. I told the girls we’ll chalk it up to two long weeks of soccer.”
In the first half, it was all Pennridge (8-1-0, 5-1-0 SOL Continental) and the Rams probably could have taken a bigger lead than the 1-0 one they had into the intermission. North Penn (4-6-0, 2-4-0) was often playing in its own half, trying to stop the Rams from getting forward and defending for dear life.
Certainly a couple of wasteful chances by Pennridge hurt, but Knights keeper Hannah Lambert was terrific all match and kept her team right in things with nine huge saves. She made five before half but arguably the biggest in the second half with 13:55 left when she stonewalled Rams midfielder Savanna Harrison on a 1-on-1.
“We needed that and that’s also what helped us into that second half,” Knights coach Jim Dehner said. “Her play, we fed off of that. She makes a great save, they get a breakaway and she makes a save and it lifts us up a little bit.”
Pennridge is a team that prides itself on being able to string passes together on the ground and not get into kick-and-runs. Tuesday, the Rams’ passing wasn’t as clean as it normally is, with the ball going the wrong way or a build-up ending when the player with the ball missed an open teammate in space.
The team’s communication was good, with open players calling for the ball and forwards telling where to play it, but some of those calls went ignored or it was the wrong place to play it.
“Their long balls really got us,” Rams senior captain Erin Stevenson said. “We’re good on the ground but going up against a team that plays in the air, it gets us unorganized. We do really good being able to get the ball back on the ground and playing to feet.
“We need to keep working on that. That’s practice, it’s what we do, we work with our forwards on what we want to do.”
Dangerous free kick for North Penn pic.twitter.com/O6fQVkHF6l
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) September 27, 2016
Stevenson was responsible for setting up both goals with a pair of well-placed early balls for assists. In the first half, she played a brilliant early cross that found Abby Groff alone in front where she was able to volley over Lambert with 22:01 left in the period.
Just out of the half, her through ball sprung Lyon free down the left side and into the box where Lyon was able to skim one along the ground to the far post for a 2-0 lead.
“We figured they were going to have a lot back playing against our forwards so our midfield needed to take that chance and find those gaps when we received the ball,” Stevenson said. “That’s what allowed me to get those two assists.”
The second goal seemed to light a fire under North Penn and the Knights came back with a lot of pressure from a lot of different looks. North Penn’s wide players were able to press up the field and stretch out Pennridge.
A throw-in deep in the Rams’ defensive third led to a goal when senior defender Riley Houlihan’s throw reached the feet of Anna Pedicone on the endline and her cross across the mouth of goal found Amelia Eshraghi for a tap-in with 31:57 left.
Unfortunately for the Knights, all their ensuing pressure didn’t register a goal, only frustration that included Pedicone ringing shots off the post and crossbar.
“They were winning almost every 50/50, so we had to put more effort in,” Dehner said. “I thought we had them in that second half, we had them on their heels. If we use our head, we score maybe, it was a lot of little things.”
North Penn responded to its coach’s challenge at the half and now Dehner wants the Knights to start games that way, beginning at CB East on Thursday.
Pennridge was able to hold the fort, though it never stopped North Penn’s pressure. Stevenson said she felt the team’s performance was fine, but conceded it could have been better. Regardless, it was enough to pick up a win in a tough league.
“It shows we need to keep working hard no matter who we’re playing,” Stevenson said. “These games matter so much and we have to keep working every day. Keeping our heads in the game and not playing kick-and-run was huge for us. If we had been able to control the ball more, it would have helped us.”
Pennridge 2, North Penn 1
Pennridge 1 1 – 2
North Penn 0 1 – 1
Goals: P – Abby Groff (Erin Stevenson) 18’, Melissa Lyon (Stevenson) 41’; NP – Amelia Eshraghi (Anna Pedicone) 48’. Shots: P – 11, NP – 5. Corners: P – 5, NP – 2. Saves: P – Mary Kate Levush 4, NP – Hannah Lambert 9.
Top Photo: North Penn’s Casey Cavanaugh and Pennridge’s Kouri Peace battle for a head ball during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)