EAST ROCKHILL >> After Josh Yardley fired in the go-ahead goal for Pennridge, the Rams had to wait just 25 more seconds — and get one more big save from goalie Jake Aigeldinger — for the Senior Night celebration to officially begin.
Yardley’s goal was the capper in a thrilling 13-12 victory over rival Souderton Area, as the Rams go sprinting into this weekend’s Eastern Conference Championships.
“It was a lot of fun, just playing for my seniors,” said Yardley, a junior, whose score in the final minute was part of a four-goal performance for the Rams. “(In the final moments), we were just thinking, ‘slow it down and play our game.’ We just had to play defense on them.”
Pennridge’s victory followed up a win by the Souderton Area girls, who earned an 11-3 decision over the Rams in the first half of the doubleheader.
“It’s a big win because it’s possible we could play them on Saturday (at Upper Dublin),” Yardley said.
Jeff Swartz and Aiden Bunn each added three goals for the Rams, who completed a regular-season sweep of rival Big Red.
Pennridge, playing all of its seniors to start out the game, battled Souderton to a 5-5 tie at the half then pulled ahead early in the third quarter on a goal by Bunn.
The Rams led by as many as three goals (9-6) in the second half but Souderton kept rallying back.
“They’re a fast team,” Pennridge coach Dave Apple said of the Indians. “When we get the jump on defense and we’re thinking about defense, we can shut it down, but when we don’t keep that in mind and we’re focused on scoring, sometimes they get the jump on offense and they have that first stroke.”
Souderton’s fast-break attack, with Cristian Musterait and Co. finding their way, closed out the third quarter with back-to-back goals by Rory Sinkinson, cutting the margin to 9-8.
Souderton evened things up at 11 apiece and again at 12-12 with 37 seconds to go before Yardley worked his magic. Aigeldinger blocked a shot with 17 ticks remaining, and the Rams held onto the ball and the lead from there.
“It was a little nerve-racking,” Apple said, “but if we slow it down and play our game, we’ll be fine.”
The Souderton girls also head to Easterns with plenty of momentum, using a 7-0 run to turn a slim 3-2 lead into a 10-3 margin by the end of the third.
“This gives us some more confidence before the weekend,” said Big Red’s Michaela Hershey, who had a pair of goals and led the way with five steals in the victory. “We’ve been working on our plays, trying to drive a lot.
“We’ve gotten so much better and we’ve made so much progress. We just work well together.”
Three goals each by Rachel Morris and Emily Hodges, along with eight saves in net by Crystal Armstrong, put Souderton in firm control. Senior Claire Beno had a pair of goals for Pennridge.
Souderton was able to complete a regular-season sweep of the rival Rams, with this win even more impressive than the 14-10 victory they earned back in September.
Said Souderton coach Joe Hay: “This team keeps getting better every week.”
Top Photo: Souderton’s Clara Burrell fights for the ball with Pennridge’s Brooke Pritz during their game on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Jeff Davis/For Digital First Media)