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Abington finds new energy, tops North Penn

ABINGTON >> Abington’s girls lacrosse team didn’t want to go to the wire like it had in its last two games.

So they took an early lead on Tuesday and never let it go. It wasn’t a finished product yet but it was a step in the right direction.

Instead of trailing, the Galloping Ghosts led most of the way and spent their energy celebrating every moment possible instead of trying to work out of a deficit.

Abington had six players score as it topped visiting North Penn 13-9.

“A big focus at practice (Monday) was why do you play lacrosse? Remember why you play lacrosse,” Ghosts coach Amanda Kammes said. “Are you here out of obligation? Do your mom and dad make you play? No. They all said it’s because we love or because we’re good, because we’re a family. Finding those little things that are really at the heart of why these kids come out and battle really helped us put a better effort together today.”

The Ghosts struck first on a goal by Sam McGee then opened up a 4-1 lead with 16:11 left in the first half. Abington’s big three in attack of McGee, Jules Greco and Casey McCallister combined for six goals in the first half but the Ghosts couldn’t build any separation.

McGee, a St. Joe’s recruit, has been man-marked all season coming off an 85-goal junior season. The senior had a tough time adjusting to it early in the season, but has come to realize she’s not going to score six or seven goals in a game this year. Instead, all the attention defenses have paid her has led to more opportunities for Greco, McCallister, Abby Thomas and others.

Of course, when McGee does get off one of her rocket shots, like she did on the opening goal Tuesday, it sends a message.

“She’s dynamic,” Kammes said. “Everyone kind of has to stand at attention when she scores because, honestly when she doesn’t score, it’s a rocket that goes to the restrain line because it went off the post so hard. It’s been a real challenge for her, no doubt.”

After Greco’s first marker opened up the 4-1 edge, the Knights called timeout but it wasn’t until McCallister scored for a 5-2 Ghost lead that North Penn came alive. Julia Keffer and Bri O’Donnell scored in a 31-second span that cut Abington’s lead down to a single goal.

The little run forced Abington to take a timeout, but the Knights couldn’t keep that momentum going, only rediscovering it in small bursts the rest of the game.

North Penn has struggled to find consistency so far this season, hindered by some slow starts and then bouts of good play followed by a letdown.

“It’s our biggest struggle right now,” Knights coach Heather Mellow said. “We have moments where we look great then we follow it with moments where we’re asking ‘Woah, what’s going on out there?’ We need to be more consistent.”

One player Mellow didn’t have to worry about on Tuesday was goalie Kate Winstanley. A field hockey goalie in the fall who is still quite new to lacrosse, Winstanley made nine tough saves against Abington’s diverse attack under the lights and earned props from her coach for the effort.

Greco and McCallister each scored their second goals to push Abington’s edge back to 7-4. Shannon pulled one back with 14 seconds to play in the first half for North Penn, which Kammes wasn’t happy about. Abington, despite winning games against Plymouth Whitemarsh and Souderton, trailed by three goals in each of them.

The players realized they weren’t doing enough to get themselves ready and aside from remembering why they were playing, revised their warm-up to build up some early energy. It seems routine to observers, but Abington made a couple tweaks, both in its drills and its playlist, that seemed to have the right effects.

“We’ve been talking about that a lot at practices, finding ways to pump each other up,” Ghosts senior Lindsay Baer said. “We’ve been coming out kind of flat and I think this was the real Abington tonight. We had a lot of good plays and felt better than we had in our other games.”

Abington had the early advantage in the second half with McGee and McCallister each scoring to complete a hat-trick inside the first five minutes. Kelly Macnamara’s goal with 14:46 left pulled the Knights within three but Abington responded with two more goals to make it a five-goal game.

Mellow felt the deciding factor on the field was Abington’s dominance on draw controls. McGee took most of them for Abington and used her power for more than just shooting, either getting the ball outright or putting it in a spot where a teammate could scoop it off the grass.

The Knights face Lansdale Catholic on Wednesday then host Boyertown on Saturday morning to conclude their week. Last season, the team found its stride in the second half of the year and Mellow is hoping for a similar run this year, albeit one that starts a little sooner.

Abington meanwhile is hoping Tuesday’s result is the start of something much bigger.

“We had six different scorers, five assists on 13 goals, it was a more Abington-esqe game in my opinion,” Kammes said. “We talk a lot about ‘what is the Abington brand?’ Just like you would think of Nike, how would you want people to associate Abington lacrosse?”

Abington 13, North Penn 9
NORTH PENN 5 4 – 9
ABINGTON 7 6 – 13
Goals-Assists: NP – Kaitlyn Phifer 3-0, Bri O’Donnell 2-0, Heather Shannon 2-0, Kelly Macnamara 1-1, Julia Keffer 1-0, Kristin Varilla 0-2, Victoria Braeuhle 0-1; A – Sam McGee 3-1, Casey McCallister 3-1, Jules Greco 3-1, Lindsay Baer 2-0, Abby Thomas 1-0, Enhow 1-0, Steark 0-1.
Saves: NP – Kate Winstanley 9, A – Kiki Brashear 9

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