UPPER DUBLIN >> Through six games, Upper Dublin sophomore Laura Pendleton has figured out one thing about her team.
The Cardinals’ girls soccer team has a lot of grit. Fittingly, locked in a scoreless battle with Abington on Monday afternoon, it was Pendleton showing some grit to find a loose ball in the box and put it home for her first varsity goal.
It held up, with a little help from Pendleton on the defensive end, as Upper Dublin won 1-0 over the Galloping Ghosts and continued its unbeaten start to the season.
“Our team in general has a lot of grit and we do a good job of playing our hardest out there,” Pendleton said. “We run through every ball and win 50/50s, which I think we did a really good job of today. I think we had an overall really good effort out there.”
The Cardinals, who have yet to allow more than one goal in a single match, used a strong midfield performance and more solid defending to take the teeth of out Abington’s potent attack. The Ghosts, who were shut out for just the second time this season, had their share of chances, but were outdone by UD’s energy in the second half and far too many giveaways.
It was a giveaway that led to Pendleton’s goal. After senior Tina Haig’s free kick was saved by Ghosts keeper Olivia Oliphant, a short pass out of the back hung out long enough for Upper Dublin freshman Karolina Bocul to surge up and knock it back into the box.
Pendleton, who usually plays as a center defender or defensive mid, was still pushed up the field due to the free kick and chased after the ball.
“I saw it going through so I stepped forward and looked up and saw the net,” Pendleton said. “I tried to put it through and I lucked out. It was just me running through it, it wasn’t like I needed to take many touches to the net or anything. It wasn’t a perfect dribble up and shoot, it was lucky it got through and I just got the shot off.”
The sophomore pushed her shot in with about 10 minutes left, then dropped to the back line, where she helped make a couple of key tackles to close out the win.
“We know the kind of athletes we have and the kind of heart these girls have,” UD coach John Topper said. “I think they’re starting to realize it now too. We’ve played a lot of tight games and seen a lot of different girls step up and put the team on their back. It’s what a good team needs to do and in a tight game like this especially.”
The Cardinals gave Abington almost no time on the ball in the second half and if a Ghost player tried to carry the ball up the middle, it usually ended with Abington losing possession.
“They out-worked us in the second half,” Abington coach Rick Thompkins said. “They slowed us down and we passed more balls to them than we did to our own team and that’s a recipe for disaster. But I give them the credit, they out-worked us.”
The first half was fairly even in terms of shots on goal and chances created but none of the opportunities really challenged either keeper. Abington, which is led offensively by juniors Cam Lexow and Kailey Horton and freshman Casey Touey, had a lot of trouble winning the ball in the middle.
UD’s Aidan Hopkins used her size to her advantage playing as a center mid and had an all-around excellent game, winning air battles, tackles on the ground and creating a number of chances. Haig, the team’s leading scorer, also did plenty of the dirty work defensively.
It was a setback for Abington, which had won two in a row and jumps back to SOL National play with Harry S Truman on Tuesday.
“Our record isn’t what we would like it to be and I was hoping we were going to win this game so we could get our hope us as a team,” Lexow, a University of Virginia recruit, said. “We just have to come back out tomorrow.
“They were winning all the head balls. They won all of our punts and head balls in the air and that’s what I think killed us.”
Upper Dublin held Touey without a shot on goal and Lexow’s opportunities were limited mostly to free kicks and corner kick services. The junior did play a terrific corner in the waning minutes of the game, picking out Horton in a crow only for the following header to drift wide.
While the Cardinals won, Abington nearly seized the momentum around the 60th minute when Michaela Coyle managed to find herself wide open, onside and with plenty of space on the right side. With UD furiously tracking back, the senior drove toward the net and fired a low shot that was saved by a sprawling Devon Jones.
Jones, the Cardinals’ senior keeper, followed it up with another point-blank stop when Horton tried to poke in the rebound.
“Devon, it’s not the first time either,” Topper said. “Our back four has done a great job but inevitably they’re going to get some shots and Devon has really come up big in a lot of moments. She’s made the saves she should make, but also a couple I wouldn’t count on any goalie making.”
Upper Dublin travels to Springfield Twp on Tuesday then will be off for the rest of the week.
Lexow noted there have been some growing pains early this season for the Ghosts and they’re still trying new things. Abington has the firepower to play with anyone, it just has to play clean enough on the rest of the field so it can start stringing more wins together.
“For me, it would get me back on the right foot,” Lexow said. “I can’t say for the rest of the team but I hope it would rise their confidence back to where it was and makes them think we can get to the playoffs.”
UPPER DUBLIN 1, ABINGTON 0
UPPER DUBLIN 0 1 – 1
ABINGTON 0 0 – 0
Goals: UD- Laura Pendleton. Shots on Goal: A – 9, UD – 12 Saves: A – Olivia Oliphant 7, UD – Devon Jones 9.