WHITEMARSH >> Whenever a Hatboro-Horsham girls lacrosse defender comes up with a turnover or a ground ball, they know to look up.
The Hatters have a lot of speed in their midfield and attack, so they want to take advantage of transition opportunities. Whether that be a long pass down the field, or a quick outlet to a dropped-back midfielder, the defense wants to get it going quickly.
Speed kills, as Plymouth Whitemarsh learned Wednesday afternoon. The Hatters got a strong defensive effort and used it to fuel transition in the second half of a 9-6 win.
“Defensively it was probably the best game we played all year,” Hatters coach Marie Schmucker said. “Each game, we’ve improved tremendously. Coming up with turnovers, playing strong defense and having great communication, I thought that as a unit they played outstanding. Once they got the ball, the midfield capitalized on opportunities we had and it went right down to the offensive end.”
Kaitlyn Wallace and Gwyn Acker each scored four goals for the Hatters, with Acker netting all four of hers after halftime and including the go-ahead score to go along with three assists. Hatboro-Horsham’s attack wasn’t firing on all cylinders in the first half, much of that having to do with PW goalie Meghan Ely, who made 15 saves in the game.
The Hatters defense was stout all game however, with goalie Arielle Hammer orchestrating a solid group effort. Part of that effort was the play of freshman Gabby Liott, who drew the tall task of face-guarding PW’s Ali Diamond.
Diamond managed two goals and had a couple other shots hit the post, but Liott did well containing the high-scoring junior attacker. Liott ended up with four ground balls, with Acker and Kerrun McBride each causing two turnovers and Emma Roesing causing a turnover, scooping up a ground ball, scoring a goal while helping the Hatters win nine draw controls.
“We had a lot of good communication,” Liott said. “We marked our cutters and we had overall good teamwork today. We had to stay tight on the cutters and had to get more 50/50 balls and we really improved on that in the second half. We’ve been working on transitions and we did a good job of going from defense to midfield to offense.”
The first half was a grind offensively for both teams. Hatboro-Horsham scored a quick goal when Acker found Wallace, a Penn State recruit 90 seconds in but the Hatters would wait 13 minutes for their next score. While Hatboro-Horsham had a 15-5 shot advantage at one point, they couldn’t find a way to beat Ely.
Diamond got PW on the board with 9:37 left in the first half, starting a 3-0 Colonials run that ended when Lexi Petrakis scored a solo goal following a great move to shake a defender. However, much like the Hatters, the Colonials weren’t doing enough offensively.
“We’re in the game then we make our own troubles by having turnovers and we seemed to hang our heads a little bit instead of fighting back,” PW coach Ellen Reilly said. “We had opportunities. We had 28 shots on goal and to only score six is not good enough.
“The goalies did a good job, but the attackers have to move the goalie. Attack-wise, we could have placed the ball a little better.”
The Hatters got a boost going into the half thanks to Wallace, who made a decisive cut and scored off an Acker pass with 17 seconds left in the frame to knot the game 3-3. Acker opened the second half on a long solo run in transition lead for a 4-3 lead, then after Petrakis scored her second goal, Acker made it 5-4 on a free position shot.
Hatboro-Horsham didn’t trail again and built its lead up to 7-4 with 12:24 left in the second half. After the Hatters made it 6-4, PW called a timeout and even forced a turnover after a deliberate HH possession but the Colonials gave the ball right back and fouled Wallace, who then converted a free position shot.
“It really adds up because everything starts with the defense then transitions into offense,” Liott said. “Our attack did a really good job today with scoring and keeping possession of the ball. Our transitions were big today. We would make long passes down the field and our attack and midfield was really good at getting possession of the ball.”
Diamond gave PW a short burst of steam after she scored on a sharp cut and put away Victoria Betterly’s pass. Betterly created the goal, pressuring Hammer and intercepting a pass before finding Diamond. It was a good moment for PW, but one that was few and far between.
“I have other kids that have to step up and demand it when (Diamond) is being marked,” Reilly said. “Vic’s been scoring four or three goals per game with a couple of assists. They’re capable of it but my younger kids, I have three ninth graders and they struggled with the pressure.”
Wallace and Acker followed the Diamond goal with a score each, putting Hatboro-Horsham up four with five minutes left.
PW is off until Friday, when it faces Ridley while the Hatters jump right back into it Thursday night with a night game against Pennridge. The Hatters are in position to qualify for the district playoffs but Liott thinks the team has yet to reach its ceiling.
“We can definitely take it to the next level, we’ve been improving every game this season and we’re going to try and improve even more,” Liott said. “We have very good seniors, some who are going to good colleges for lacrosse and that’s helped a lot of the underclassmen including me. They’ve helped me, they talk to me and explain things I don’t get. We have great teamwork and everyone communicates.”
HATBORO-HORSHAM 9, PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 6
HATBORO-HORSHAM 3 6 – 9
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 3 3 – 6
Goals-Assists: HH – Gwyn Acker 4-3, Kaitlyn Wallace 4-0, Emma Roesing 1-0, Gabby Acker 0-1; PW – Ali Diamond 2-0, Lexi Petrakis 2-0, Amanda Fineman 1-1, Lilly Hanlon 1-0, Victoria Betterly 0-2. Saves: HH – Arielle Hammer 13, PW – Meghan Ely 15.
Top Photo: Plymouth Whitemarsh Sam Ward moves the ball up field as Hatboro-Horshams Gabby Acker defends during their game on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)