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Energized Pennridge tops Wissahickon, moves to District 1-AAAA quarters

EAST ROCKHILL >> The Pennridge girls soccer team is not going to have to answer that question this year.

That question being the one they’ve been asked the last two years at this time of the season. The question that classmates bombarded the Rams players with the next day in school and the one they didn’t want to answer.

“Why did you guys lose so early in playoffs?”

Pennridge does not have to answer that question. The reason it doesn’t is the No. 3 Rams’ 3-0 win over No. 19 Wissahickon in the second round of the District 1-AAAA tournament Thursday night. On a rain-soaked field, against a team that had taken them to overtime just 10 days prior, the Rams put their mark on the game and showed this year was going to be different.

“Our energy and willingness to win this game carried us,” Pennridge senior midfielder Erin Stevenson said. “This was all teamwork right here. It was no one playing like an individual, it was all teamwork tonight.”

Stevenson is one of those players who had to answer that question and the senior played like she wasn’t interested in doing it again. The midfielder spearheaded an aggressive and high-energy Rams effort that saw Pennridge keep Wissahickon pinned in its own end for long stretches.

Senior right back Rachel Velez was able to keep Wiss midfielder Maddie Elwell mostly in check, though that too was not a one-player effort and the entire midfield and back line stepped up to help. With 50/50 balls and aerial services so important in Thursday’s near-constant downpour, the Rams wanted to win as many of them as they could.

Pennridge had a first round bye, but the time off helped the Rams.

“All week we’ve been hyped up for this game,” Stevenson said. “Our energy this whole week helped us for this game. Honestly, I think it was a bonus, it was a long time since we last played and that wait hyped us up so much for this game.”

Pennridge got all the offense it needed from senior Kennedy Peace and her sister, sophomore Kouri. Kouri Peace missed the team’s first meeting but had a big impact on Thursday with her speed and the same was true for her older sister. The wet ground was an asset for the Rams, because anything that skipped past a defender would be prime pickings for any forward that was playing up near the back line.

The sisters connected in the first half to give the Rams all the cushion they would need. Kouri Peace’s pass off the left side deflected off another player and fell right to Kennedy, who tucked the ball inside the post and around the fingertips of Wissahickon keeper Nicole Hastings with 10:43 left before the break.

“All of us are elated, the words can’t even describe it,” Kennedy Peace said. “We’ve been in this position so many times and we finally did what we knew we could do all this time. We had the idea that at this point, other teams are playing and we can’t be behind, we worked hard at practice so we could prepare for this game.”

Peace came away from the first meeting impressed with Wissahickon and felt the two keys on Thursday were keeping Elwell somewhat contained and trying to take advantage of the short passes the Trojans liked to play out of the back.

“Maddie is an amazing, amazing player so we had to, not man-mark her, but keep the ball away from her, she’s very skilled, very technical and can do a lot with the ball,” Peace said. “We also had to look for quick restarts because their keeper is very smart and she’s a great keeper and she looks for those quick balls that gives them quick transition.”

It was one of those quick balls that led to the second goal when Peace pounced on a short clearance, won the ball and was able to get it through and into the net with 32:05 to play. Peace almost scored again two minutes later, but her laser of a shot was pushed away by a diving Hastings.

The ball didn’t get too far, with Kouri Peace rushing in to pick up the rebound and put it away with 30:28 left in the game.

Hastings was still very good in net, making nine saves and several other sound plays. The score didn’t do justice to the Wissahickon seniors, who led the program to the second round of the postseason in back-to-back years, and made the Trojans a team to be respected.

“We talked about, not so much the game, but what we got out of the season as a whole,” a teary-eyed Elwell said after her team’s last postgame meeting. “We talked about what we were able to grow on and how we were able to compete against teams like Pennridge. Even though we didn’t play as well as we did the last time, they knew we could be a threat and knowing we could mean that to a third seed coming in as a 19 seed, it showed we’re better than people may view us.”

Elwell gutted out the last 15 or so minutes with her upper right leg taped up after tweaking something in the second half. The weather did seem to slow the Trojans down, but Pennridge was also committed to stopping them.

Pennridge is now a win away from reaching the thing the seniors want most, the state tournament. To get there, the Rams will have to find a way by Downingtown East, a 4-1 winner over Strath Haven, on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

There was still plenty of energy left in the Rams after Thursday’s win. Pennridge has gotten this far by being true to what it does well and that’s the way the Rams will keep doing things.

“We don’t change that much up,” Stevenson said. “We play our style of soccer.

“All of us seniors, from our freshman year, we’ve wanted states. If we don’t get there, it’s still better. We got past the second round; we’ve done better than we have since we were freshman. But us seniors, when we want something, we’re going to come together and go after it.”

WISSAHICKON 0 0 – 0
PENNRIDGE 1 2 – 3
Goals: P – Kennedy Peace (Kouri Peace) 29’, Kennedy Peace (48’), Kouri Peace (Kennedy Peace) 50’. Shots: W – 3, P – 12. Corners: W – 0, P – 6. Saves: W – Nicole Hastings 9, W – Mary Kate Levush 3.

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