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North Penn edges Souderton on O’Donnell’s last-minute goal

FRANCONIA >> When the North Penn field hockey team’s penalty corner skipped away from the circle in the final minute of a tie contest with Souderton Monday, there was no panic from the Knights.

They had prepared for this situation.

“We practice corners and we always play it out so that it goes out of the dotted line so really that’s what we did,” North Penn’s Bri O’Donnell said. “When it didn’t work out, we just kept playing and we just found each other and worked as a team in the circle to get that last shot off.”

North Penn worked the ball back into the circle where Amber Blackshear played a ball in front to O’Donnell, who knocked it into the cage with 36.5 seconds left to give the visiting Knights a 2-1 comeback victory over the Indians.

“I know Bri would be on post because we practice those positions all the time,” Blackshear said. “So I was really just like make sure this ball gets to the far post I know my teammate would be there. And her putting it was just an awesome feeling.”

Jess Gabriel gave Souderton the 1-0 lead with 20.7 seconds left in the first half off a corner and the Indians (7-7-1, 4-5-1 Suburban One League Continental) kept North Penn (8-6-0, 7-3-0) off the board until 9:03 remaining when Emily Crawford scored after a Indians turnover.

“We fight, we have times when we look awesome, (our) passing’s connecting, we’re shooting on goal, we get corners and the something hits us where we’re lacking in connections, we’re lacking in just team unity in general,” Souderton coach Nicole Bauer said.

It came close to being a frustrating day for the Knights, who pressed forward for most of the game but could not create quality chances on the net and could not convert on any of their 11 penalty corners.

“I thought we played a much better second half,” North Penn coach Shannon McCracken said. “We kind of came out little flat today and what I’m most proud of and what made the difference is we played through adversity. Things weren’t rolling our way at times, we were disconnected a little bit as a team and we fought through that adversity and pushed through and were able to put together a much more intense second half.”

The win was the second straight for North Penn and completed a regular-season sweep of Souderton, the Knights besting Big Red 5-1 on their home turf Sept. 19.

“Big conference game, Souderton’s a great opponent. They’re much improved than the last first time we saw them,” McCracken said. “And it was just a big, big win for us today, especially because we’re both in the middle of the (District 1-AAA) pack. It’s crunch time now.”

North Penn entered Monday’s game 14th in the latest district power rankings with Souderton four back at 18th. The top 24 teams earn a spot in the AAA postseason field.

“We wanted this one. That was going to push us up,” Bauer said.

Souderton is back on the field Tuesday as it visits Hatboro-Horsham for a 3:45 p.m. SOL non-conference contest. North Penn hosts Central Bucks South for a Continental matchup 7 p.m. Thursday.

“As the season goes on we’re really growing and becoming a better team,” O’Donnell said. “So it’s really awesome that we could get that win.”

The Indians tallied Monday’s opening goal in the final minute of the first half as Big Red scored on one of their three penalty corners. Nina Disco played the corner to Jess Gabriel at the top of the circle and Gabriel ripped a shot that went into the back of the cage at 20.7 seconds.

“That’s our first one that I think we’ve scored off of so that was a positive for us,” Bauer said. “We’ve been working hard on switching things up.”

North Penn took advantage of a Souderton turnover to level the contest at the 9:03 mark in the second half, as an Indians restart was sent right to Crawford, who charged in and got a shot past goalkeeper Casey Febus.

“We usually like to come out and score first and score early so that we can keep the momentum so them scoring on us first did set us back a little bit,” Blackshear said. “But it did give us the momentum to want to come back with another goal and keep following that with more goals. We were determined not to lose.”

The Knights did not get a shot on their last corner in the game’s final second but quickly got the ball back into the circle. Blackshear hit a ball to the opposite post to a waiting O’Donnell for the winning strike.

“All I thought was let’s see if I can receive this and get it in the cage,” O’Donnell said. “And it was an awesome pass by Amber.”

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