LOWER MORELAND >> There’s no star on the Lower Moreland girls soccer team this season.
Make no mistake though, that’s how the Lions want it to be. By not relying too much on one or two players, Lower Moreland is playing fluid team soccer and has them looking down from atop the Bicentennial Athletic League table and eyeing a high District 1-3A seed.
Thursday, Lower Moreland continued its teamworking ways as it topped visiting Dock Mennonite 6-0.
“We’re working together on the field and off the field and it really helps,” LM senior defender Kayla O’Malley said. “We try to stay together as a family. We connect passes, we try to spread teams out, we just do everything as a team. Whether you’re on the bench or on the field, it doesn’t matter.”
LM improved to 13-1 with Thursday’s win as the team hasn’t missed a beat in coach Jack Kilroy’s first season. The real tests will come once the Lions get to the postseason, where they’ll try to break a multi-year hex of not advancing to the state tournament.
Two seasons ago, Lower Moreland was more reliant on a specific few players, which was fine given the abilities of those players. But once that senior class, which included current Hartford Hawk Bridgette Alexander, graduated, the Lions had to adapt.
Last year was a learning process without a target player like Alexander, who is the program’s all-time scoring leader. Once Kilroy took over this season, he wanted to continue to build on the all-as-one approach.
“This year I feel like we’re playing more as a team and it shows,” Lions junior Allison Asmann said. “We’re not targeting one or two players, we want every player on the field to be equal.”
Asmann got the scoring going for Lower Moreland with a terrific individual effort, making a long run through the midfield and finishing with composure in the box. The Lions led 2-0 at half with sophomore Nicole Castor providing the other strike, but they had plenty of other chances.
GIRLS SOCCER 14:44 2nd half: Lower Moreland 6, Dock 0
Paige Malpezzi on PK pic.twitter.com/FPxLrLuoKM
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) October 12, 2017
Another thing the Lions have excelled at this year is pouring it on in the second half and Lower Moreland did just that on Thursday, scoring four times after the break. Midfielder Gianna Penecale led the charge with a brace, both goals coming on well-hit balls from the top of the box.
Rebecca Scoll scored on a shot from inside the box and Paige Malpezzi wrapped the scoring for LM on a penalty kick. Four of the six goals were set up by great movement, both on and off the ball.
“Once we got used to not having Bridgette on the field, not having that target type of player, we started moving as a unit,” O’Malley said. “Last year was a year shifting into that and this year we’ve gotten a lot better at it.”
Dock, which dropped to 5-10, will qualify for the District 1-A playoffs but has had its share of bumps this year while fielding a relatively young roster. The Pioneers had trouble generating much attack in the first half, with senior midfielder McKenzie Swartley doing all she could to get things in motion.
“We have a lot of freshmen playing and trying to learn and we’re trying to be as positive as we can,” Dock coach Ray Hess said. “Credit to Lower Moreland, they really played well today. Every time there was an open player, they hit that open player. It was hard for us to understand every player had to be covered today, but we did that a little bit today.”
Dock junior keeper Audrey Schweizerhof made five saves on Thursday and while she and Swartley are experienced players, the Pioneers don’t have many other players with that kind of experience around them.
“We’ve seen improvement,” Hess said. “We’ll be competitive in the A playoffs. We still don’t know where certain people can play, but you don’t get any better unless you play teams like this. You want to play teams like this.”
Lower Moreland’s lone loss came to perennial state 3A power Villa Joseph Marie and the Lions host Central Bucks South next week as they try to test themselves before the postseason.
Asmann said as the season has gone on, the Lions have gotten better at connecting through the center midfield and shifting as a team. Everything they do on the field is as a team, whether it’s swinging the point of attack from side-to-side or pressing up and tracking back.
“You have to have that confidence in the players around you,” Asmann said. “You can’t look down on any players around you, or else that’s how you start going at each other instead of working together.”
O’Malley also credited Kilroy for improving the team’s fitness level. The Lions did more running and more arduous drills in preseason and they feel like it’s paid off as the calendar turned from August to September to now October.
The next step for Lower Moreland is getting the calendar to turn over one more month by snaring one of the district’s two state playoff spots.
“We’ll have to pick up our intensity and just prepare,” O’Malley said. “The teams we play in playoff are going to be tougher than teams we’ve seen in the league, so mentally and physically, we have to prepare for it.”
LOWER MORELAND 6, DOCK MENNONITE 0
LOWER MORELAND 6 0 – 6
DOCK MENNONITE 0 0 – 0
Goals: LM –Gianna Penecale 2, Allison Asmann, Nicole Castor, Rebecca Scoll, Paige Malpezzi (PK).