FRANCONIA >> Sitting on the bus on the ride up to Souderton, Wissahickon senior goalkeeper Nicole Hastings was scared.
She didn’t know a lot about the team she was about to face in what could be the last game of her high school career. She had heard some things; that the Indians were big and fast and strong and as a smaller keeper who relies on her speed, she was afraid to hesitate.
She was scared of letting her team down in the biggest game of the season.
“I was really scared,” Hastings said. “Knowing they were big and aggressive, my problem is coming out and that’s how most of the goals scored on me, I was inching up (out of the goal), keeping it my head in it that they are big and aggressive and they can come out fast.”
Nicole Hastings was scared, but once the game started, the fear went away and the senior played a pivotal role as 19th-seeded Wissahickon upended No. 14 Souderton 2-0 in the first round of the District 1-AAAA tournament.
She was there, seven minutes after the first goal, rushing out of her net and diving on a ball with Allie Trick, Souderton’s strong and aggressive sophomore forward closing fast. Hastings got the ball and pulled it away from Trick’s foot, stopping a dangerous chance cold.
“I’m not the fastest but I know if I inch up a little bit and when they’re looking for that through ball, I can come out and take that away from them,” Hastings said. “I was scared because I didn’t know anything about them, we didn’t hear anything but I told myself I was going to go out and just do my best.”
It was a well-played game by both teams but Souderton (10-5-3) will certainly rue some chances it wasn’t able to finish and a couple it didn’t have. Trick looked like she was going to be in all alone less than a minute in, but an offside call diffused the chance before it got going.
Across the front, Trick, Tori Dowd, Taylor Moritz and Meredith Moore played aggressively for the Indians. Dowd had a tremendous performance, showing a lot of hustle that kept balls in play and generating chances. The junior was unlucky late when she rang a shot off the crossbar with 2:47 left that was Souderton’s last chance to try and get back into the game.
“The seniors that leave this program are leaving in 1000 times a better place than it was,” Souderton coach Chris Felber said. “That’s what it is for us, we’re leaving the program in a better place. It’s another season to build on. We went 8-2-2 in possibly the hardest conference in the state. We had a great year and I think we deserved a couple wins in districts but we’ll have to dust it off and come back next year.”
Souderton’s seniors played hard to the end. Sara Cassel, the defensive stalwart, drew the task of marking Wissahickon senior Maddie Elwell and did a great job. Both seniors put on a good duel, each able to win a few individual battles in the war.
Goalkeeper Vivian Feliciani and defenders Sam Plinke and Sara Readinger kept Wissahickon’s chances to a minimum. It just happened that the Trojans (14-4-1) scored on two of the three shots they got.
The first came off a restart when the ball found its way out to hard-working center midfielder Rachel Coleman. Knowing Feliciani could save almost anything she put on net, Coleman was careful to put the ball where maybe, just maybe, it would get by.
It did, with 37:25 to go in the game.
“Given that it is a good goalie, you want to find spots she can’t reach,” Coleman, a senior, said. “You want to put it in the upper left corner, the top or upper right, those are the weak spots you try and aim for.”
The first half was slow in terms of chances as the teams tried to figure each other out, both offensively and defensively. Coleman said it was difficult for the midfield players to mark Souderton at first or read what the Indians were trying to do through the first half.
Halftime provided a chance to share observations and the Trojans came back with a much better handle on what to do. Elwell worked to stay available, but also tried to keep Cassel away if the ball was moving well in another part of the field.
The eyes at the back, Hastings had some things for her back line to key in on.
“I noticed they had more speed on our left and more skill on our right side,” Hastings said. “Telling our team that at halftime, we adjusted so we were guarding them tightly on the right side and letting those balls run and slowing them down on the left side.”
“Our midfield worked very hard in this game,” senior Jasmine Bishop said. “At halftime our coaches were telling us to make sure we were getting back. All around our team really did a good job having each other’s backs and looking out for each other.”
Even in a 1-0 game, the Trojans didn’t alter what they were trying to do. Bishop said it was still a game that could change quickly, so Wissahickon wanted to try for another goal instead of playing conservatively.
They also had to contend with a Souderton team bent on getting that goal back.
“We worked hard, we were prepared, we played well,” Felber said. “We just couldn’t get the ball in the net and sometimes that happens in soccer and sport. You do everything right but you don’t get your fair cut.”
Bishop gave her team what it needed with 9:21 to play in the game. After spending all game being frustrated by Souderton’s back line, specifically Readinger, Bishop finally got her opening.
“The whole game I was eyeing up (Readinger) thinking she’s tall, she’s bigger than me and every time I got the ball I wasn’t sure if I could beat her,” Bishop said. “Normally taller people have a bigger stride but I noticed I was able to get down the sideline with her a few times. Whenever Maddie has the ball, I’m always looking to make that far run on the right corner. I saw her with the ball, decided to make the run and realized (Readinger) was on me again.
“I thought I could beat her, so I took a step forward, took it in and it was me and the goalie so all I could think was hit it far post and, I hit it far post.”
Wissahickon will face Pennridge, the No. 3 seed, on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Rams topped Wiss 2-1 in overtime in their Oct. 17 meeting.
Hastings kept coming up big, finishing the game with seven saves but she had some help from her back line of Grace Mullen, Mary Matthews, Anna Wilde and Victoria Selverian were up to the task. With 3:07 left, Wilde came in with a huge tackle from behind to take the ball off Moore’s foot in front of the goal.
Over the course of the season, Hastings has picked up on forwards’ tendencies. Tuesday, it was all about being decisive.
“I was thinking this could be my last game and I just want to leave it all out here,” Hastings said. “I usually kind of hesitate but this time, I decided I’m going to go for, I’m going out and being aggressive.”
Wissahickon 0 2 – 2
Souderton 0 0 – 0
Goals: W – Rachel Coleman 43’, Jasmine Bishop 71’. Shots: W 3, S 7. Corners: W 0, S 4. Saves: W Nicole Hastings 7, S Vivian Feliciani 1.
Top Photo: Wissahickon’s Grace Mullen wins a header from Souderton’s Taylor Moritz during their District 1-AAAA first round game on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)