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Wissahickon adjusts, tops Gwynedd Mercy Academy

AMBLER >>As the Wissahickon and Gwynedd Mercy Academy girls’ soccer teams left the field after a scoreless first half, it cast the illusion nothing much had been accomplished.

In actuality, both sides had gleamed a lot from the first 40 minutes and the break would be the chance to assess that input. After 10 minutes, the teams returned, each made changes and it was time to see which side had better applied its findings.

Thanks to a six-minute spell, it was Wissahickon. A brace from senior Maddie Elwell bookended a score by Carly Amato to propel the Trojans to a 3-0 home win Tuesday afternoon.

“We noticed we were getting tired, not winning the 50/50 balls and doing the easy things we should have been doing,” Elwell said. “We talked about finishing the game with everything we have and how it would really benefit us. It did, especially in the center midfield where we were able to come out strong and not let them win any balls.”

Elwell, a Vanderbilt recruit, was the focus of the Monarchs’ defending and had to do a lot of work to even see the ball in the first half. Her usual bombing runs up the field weren’t able to reach a conclusion thanks to adept defending by GMA (6-8-1) senior Kim Sanford, herself an East Carolina recruit and junior Bridget Casey.

Sanford was one of the Monarchs speaking up at halftime, saying the covering defenders needed to more talkative, especially when Elwell was trying to get forward. Gwynedd didn’t out-and-out mark Elwell, but it did try to keep her away from the ball.

“We’re trying to find a rhythm with the girls and in the second half we were just trying to get them to believe in themselves,” GMA coach Derik Stover said. “Wissahickon is a very talented team, led by Elwell. Everything goes through her and we knew about her coming into the match. Even knowing what she was all about, she was able to be successful.”

Just past the six minute mark of the second half, Elwell worked her way into some open space and ripped a shot from about 30 yards out that curled inside the post to break the tie. Just as the Monarchs adjusted at half, so did Elwell.

“Moving out of my position really helped, to be constantly moving,” Elwell said. “If you let them mark you, you get frustrated and you don’t really get the ball. I was also making sure my teammates were getting it to my feet and kept moving constantly around for them.”

Four minutes later, forward Carly Amato doubled the lead up with a well-placed shot just inside the post with 29:34 left to play. Elwell then sealed the deal about two minutes later with her second goal off a looping ball struck 25 yards off the left flank.

“We hadn’t tested their keeper in the air a lot in the first half,” Elwell said. “Once I had a shot in the second half I started taking them from farther out because it would catch them off guard and one of my teammates would be able to get the rebound or it would just go in.”

Toward the end of the first half, Sanford moved up to play as a target forward where she stayed the entire second half. While it took a reliable defender off the back line, the Monarchs were looking for a spark offensively.

The first half saw GMA look stagnant on offense, players not making the overlapping or complementary runs that are so crucial to creating scoring chances.

“We’re trying different things,” Stover said. “It doesn’t get any better for us than Kim. She did a wonderful job against (Elwell), but you almost have to gamble. We had to try and get something started, today wasn’t our day.”

Wissahickon (9-3-1) had four corner kicks in the first half, but only one shot when Jasmine Bishop tried to volley one back in. With the changes at half, the Trojans figured out ways to move the ball efficiently and also limit the Monarchs.

“After getting a feel for the first half and getting a better idea of their team, we kept our cool a lot better,” Bishop said. “We played with new anticipation and we were stepping to the ball a lot. Once we had the ball, we looked forward and were finding feet a lot better.”

“In the second half, we started to play from the back and more composed,” senior defender and co-captain Mary Matthews said. “We were able to shut down (Sanford). She’s a really good player, and fast, but we didn’t give her too many opportunities from us working off each other.”

Wissahickon was also coming off a 2-1 win at Hatboro-Horsham on Monday night and Matthews said the first half was about managing tired legs against keeping GMA off the board. Elwell added that winning the night before was a big boost for the Trojans to get through Tuesday’s match.

Up next for GMA is Senior Day against Nazareth Academy on Thursday.

The Trojans are off until Friday when they face Cheltenham before a four-game week next week that starts with a visit to Pennridge. Matthews said Cheltenham always manages to push her team, so she wasn’t worried about anyone overlooking their record.

“We go into it with the same attitude as we would if it were a (Plymouth-Whitemarsh) or Upper Dublin,” Matthews said.

“We play every game the same, we come out hard, play to win,” Bishop said. “We know every game counts so we always want to leave it all out and try to win.”

GWYNEDD MERCY ACADEMY 0 0 – 0
WISSAHICKON 0 3 – 3

Goals: W- Maddie Elwell 46:15, Carly Amato 50:26, Elwell 52:21. Shots: GMA – 3, W – 5. Corners: GMA – 1, W – 5. Saves: GMA – Payton Morrissey 2, W – Nicole Hastings 2

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