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North Penn rolls past Pennridge with 5-goal second half

EAST ROCKHILL >> Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was just trying to get back into rhythm at the start of the new week, but less than eight minutes into Monday afternoon’s game with host Pennridge, the North Penn field hockey team found itself down a goal.

“We started a little slow. Mondays are tough — as always and the heat played a little bit of a role,” Knights coach Shannon McCracken said. “But Pennridge came out ready to play and they took it to us and they scored that goal.”

But just before halftime, North Penn’s offense finally woke up — Emily Crawford tipping in a Mikayla Barrow shot off a corner — and the Knights’ attack hit its stride in the second half, putting five balls in the back of the cage in rolling to a 6-1 Suburban One League Continental Conference victory.

“I think we really just played as a team coming out and we knew that we needed to get those goals to keep coming out on top. And we just needed to keep playing our game and pressure up on the ball,” Barrow said. “We had much better first touches throughout the second half which kept our balls close and we were able to get those passes to get those quick shots off.”

Barrow had a pair of assists and gave North Penn (5-4-0, 5-1-0 conference) the lead for good with her goal at 26:23 in the second half. Crawford and Bri O’Donnell both scored twice for the Knights, who have won four of their last five since starting the season 1-3.

“Mikayla had a great game. She’s a key to our offense and she’s a competitor and she made some things happen for us and then the rest of the attack started following and saw some better options and we got more shots off in the second half,” McCracken said. “We were kind of holding onto the ball too long in the first half and we weren’t getting shots off. And that was something else we talked about at halftime, using a variety of shots. A lot of our goals went in up which was helpful.”

Pennridge (2-6-0, 1-5-0) came into Monday on a two-game win streak — beating William Tennent and Dock Mennonite after opening the year with five straight losses — and grabbed the early 1-0 lead at 22:14 in the first half as Abby Ludlow made a run down the right side, crossed the ball into the circle then found away to front of the net to put it in after a scramble.

“After I sent it across, a stroker had knocked it in, it was rolling, I swept it in to the goal,” Ludlow said.

The Rams, however, could not generate many chances after that. Pennridge came up empty on five penalty corners and had trouble getting out of its own half due to North Penn’s strong pressure which created turnovers and scoring opportunities for the Knights.

“North Penn’s a really good team and I think that we surprised them at first,” Pennridge coach Becky Spahr said. “That was our goal, honestly, I asked the girls to start really strong. We did that, but when they get going, they get going. And we just had really hard time defensively stopping them and slowing them down.”

Despite the scoreline, goalkeeper Mackenzie Bross had a strong game for Pennridge, making 30 stops, including denying Barrow on a breakaway.

“She has been incredible for us,” said Spahr of Bross.

Anissa Gardizy made 10 saves for the Knights, who host Central Bucks East 3:45 p.m. Wednesday. The Patriots handed North Penn its lone SOL Continental loss 4-2 Sept. 6.

“We’re really excited for that game,” Barrow said. “We’re going to go all out. We’re hoping for the best.”

Pennridge next plays 3:30 p.m. Friday as it hosts rival Quakertown in an SOL non-conference contest.

North Penn forced 16 penalties corners Monday, but the only one it covered tied the game with 4:19 left in the first half as Barrow took a touch into the circle and took a shot Crawford redirected into the air and into the cage.

“I saw it was coming out slow and the girl was quick so I pulled left and did a reverse shot,” Barrow said. “And I was hoping for the best and it luckily went in. And Em was there.”

Barrow collected the go-ahead tally at 26:23 in the second half as her shot ticked off a Pennridge stick after Barrow’s drive through the middle.

“I was just getting the shot up because I know we need to get quick shots at the top of the circle,” Barrow said. “Hopefully you’re looking for a tip-in the way we got that.”

O’Donnell made it 3-1 as she lifted a shot in off a Crawford assist at 24:33. North Penn’s four goal came at 12:50 as Kristin Varilla put in a rebound while O’Donnell scored her second by smashing in a one-timer off an Erica Kelly pass at 7:38.

“Bri’s a fighter out there and she’s a really strong player for us,” McCracken said. “And she competes and yeah if you give her a little bit of space, she’ll make the most of it and that’s what she did in that second half.”

Crawford’s second goal again came courtesy of Barrow with 4:27 remaining.

North Penn 6, Pennridge 1
North Penn        1 5 — 6
Pennridge           1 0 — 1
First Half Scoring: Abby Ludlow (P) 22:14, Maddie Pennie assist; Emily Crawford (NP) 4:19, Mikayla Barrow assist.
Second Half Scoring: Barrow (NP) 26:23: Bri O’Donnell (NP) 24:33, Crawford assist; Kristin Varilla (NP) 12:50; O’Donnell (NP) 7:38, Erica Kelly assist; Crawford (NP) 4:27, Barrow assist.

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