ABINGTON >> Playing out of the back is a crucial component of winning soccer teams.
Being able to pass the ball out of the defensive third not only allows teams to keep possession and build chances but also keeps the opposing side from getting the ball in dangerous ground. Abington learned that lesson on Tuesday.
A pair of turnovers on passes out of the back led to two goals as Council Rock North rallied to beat the Ghosts 2-1 in a must-win game for both teams.
“The high school season is long, you play a lot of games and sometimes it’s hard to get motivated,” CR North coach Gavin Flannigan said. “I think the girls found that motivation between the first and second halves today.”
The Indians (8-5-1, 5-4-1 Suburban One League National) likely counted themselves unlucky at halftime, after they had hit the crossbar twice and got a miraculous goal-line clearance by midfielder Becca Margolis to save an otherwise guaranteed goal. Yet for all that, North still trailed at the break 1-0.
Abington (5-10-0, 3-7-0), which entered play Tuesday as the No. 34 team in the District 1-4A power rankings, needed the win to keep their postseason hopes alive. The Ghosts had their work cut out for them battling against North’s talented and experienced back line, but they had their fair share of chances.
Freshman Casey Touey spent most of her afternoon shadowed by North’s towering center back, Mia Scalamandre and despite giving up at least eight inches, Touey scrapped for every yard. It was Touey who staked Abington to a lead with 1:06 left in the first half.
“She’s had a pretty good year, you heard Gavin today telling his kids ‘stay with her, she’s quick,’” Abington coach Rick Tompkins said. “It didn’t take people long to figure that out, now she’s got to make the adjustment to find seems and we have to get the ball to her. That’s the problem, when she gets open, we can’t find her.”
Touey scored twice against CR North in the teams’ first meeting, so Flannigan wanted to make sure one of his best defenders, whether it was Scalamandre, Meredith Hill or Brooke Strobel, was in her vicinity the whole time.
Abington got a lift from its bench on Tuesday, and two of those players were able to find Touey. Fullback Riley Crabtree played the first ball of the sequence, finding senior Isabelle Bautista in the midfield, who then played the ball up to Touey. In the box, Touey used a fake to pull the North keeper off her line, then while still facing toward the far post, slotted the ball into the open space of the net.
“The pass was by Isabelle Bautista, she was injured for most of the first half, so she’s just getting back into it,” Tompkins said. “I don’t think she’s fully fit now, but she brings a wealth of experience. The ball that she gave was perfect. It started with out back, Riley, who had a good pass to Isabelle.”
While Abington had the lead at half, a pair of bad passes in the back gave it back to the Indians, who were the No. 32 team in the district rankings. On the first, North sub Marissa Hsu jumped a horizontal pass along the back line, playing it across the box to Heather McLaughlin. McLaughlin scored on a well-hit shot to the far post.
The game winner was also developed off a turnover from the back. An initial shot by Anna Cairone was saved by Ghosts keeper Olivia Oliphant, but Caroline Erlandsen knocked home the rebound with 21:29 left.
“They’re pretty fundamental mistakes and they’re killing us,” Thomkins said. “This league is too good to get away with that. We’re in every game and we don’t finish. It’s not on the offensive end generally, it’s been on the defensive end, it’s been a problem all season and it continued today.”
Abington’s playoff hopes are likely finished but the Ghosts still have two games this week before wrapping up the regular season next week. Tompkins said he’ll likely give more minutes to underclassmen in coming matches, including a nonleague tilt Friday at Pennridge.
The silver lining for the Ghosts is that players like Touey, juniors Cam Lexow and Kailey Horton, sophomore Emily Friel and junior Samantha Campbell all return as Abington leaves the SOL National for the SOL American next fall.
“We’ll give the kids who haven’t been able to play as much a chance and see where it goes,” Tompkins said. “We’ve had some players who have done well this year and some who haven’t played as well as I would have expected. A lot of it starts with me, I’m getting them to do what they need to do and I have to figure it out.”
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH 2, ABINGTON 1
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH 0 2 – 2
ABINGTON 1 0 – 1
Goals: CRN – Heather McLaughlin, Caroline Erlandsen; A – Casey Touey (Isabelle Bautista).