EAST ROCKHILL >> Right around the time that a lob by Claudia Thamm sank into the far right corner of the net, North Penn began to find its way against surging Pennridge Thursday night.
“We realized how they were gonna play us,” Thamm said, “whether they were gonna drop on one of us or play hard on one of us, and we just countered them and played as well as we could against their defense.”
Thamm had a pair of goals and a team-high three steals to help lead the Knights to an 8-4 win over the Rams, with the North Penn boys following up with a 14-10 victory in the second half of the doubleheader.
“It was a good win,” Thamm said. “Being away is always tough, especially shallow-deep — we don’t usually play in that type of pool. We had to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Pennridge battled the Knights to a 1-1 tie after one quarter. The Rams, playing strong defense throughout, got a pair of goals from Claire Beno and a score each by Emily Eckelmeyer and Sam Vargo.
“It was nice to see that my girls stuck with them,” Rams coach Jacob Grant said, “and hung on.
“About three weeks ago, I was a little nervous. Things weren’t progressing — we were kind of backtracking, but they’ve got their heads on straight and they’re coming together. Hopefully we continue on that improvement.”
It was in the second quarter that the Knights took the lead for good, the lob by Thamm stretching the margin to 3-1 and then a strike by Maddy Koerper giving the Knights a 4-1 advantage at the break.
Kailyn Evans fired one in just 13 seconds into the third quarter, boosting the North Penn lead to 5-1. The Rams (11-3), with six kickouts from Reese Trauger, battled to within 5-2 and 7-3 and had the only goal of the fourth quarter, but the Knights were able to close things out.
“Right now, I feel like we’re set up pretty well,” Thamm said of the Knights, who also got three goals from Koerper and a pair from Montgomerie Weitzel. “If we keep practicing, keep working as hard as we can, I feel like we could do really well at the state tournament. I believe in this team a hundred percent.”
The North Penn and Pennridge boys also had their defenses dictating things early, with the Knights scoring the only goal of the first quarter on a breakaway by Andrew Dunigan.
“I told the kids coming in to expect an all-out war from a program like Pennridge,” said Knights coach Jeff Faikish, who was subbing in for coach Jason Grubb. “They’re coached very well by David (Apple). He’s somebody that has a close connection with the North Penn community so we have a great connection with the Pennridge coaches and know what they have to offer.
“You really find out in sports how much the kids have tied into it emotionally when it’s a close game.”
The Knights battled in the second quarter, pushing the pace and building a 5-2 lead by the break. NP’s offense found openings and got a team-high four goals from Nico Kountroubis.
“Both teams presented each other with a lot of challenges,” Faikish said, “and for the most part both teams responded really well. They were stuffing stuff that we were doing and then we were shutting them down, but then they were able to pick out some of our weaknesses and capitalize.”
North Penn (14-3) had its best stretch in the third and early fourth quarters as the offense — which would get two goals each from Sean Faikish, A.J. Patterson and Nikoloz Bakradze — rolled to a 12-5 lead.
However the Rams came right back, powered by Josh Yardley (game-high six goals). Pennridge swam to within 12-8 until a goal by Patterson helped clinch things for the Knights.
“My boys played an incredible game — really happy with them,” Apple said. “They played strong and they had great defense. Jake (Aigeldinger), in goal, was phenomenal. He was moving, he knew what was happening.”
Top Photo: North Penn’s Montgomerie Weitzel looks to pass over Pennridges Megan Weiss during their game on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)