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Lower Merion girls’ soccer on the rise

Ardmore >> Lower Merion High School girls’ soccer coach Kevin Ries has been doing this job long enough to know that sometimes the slightest of changes can make the biggest difference.

With the Aces’ scoring at what felt like a premium early this season, Ries moved Aviva Kosto to forward; put Maya Masottii at midfield and moved Ellie Ward to center defender.

Since the changes, the Aces have been fortunate to get on a roll, registering wins against Central League foe and neighborhood rival Harriton, coupled with other league wins over Strath Haven and Garnet Valley, which were all teams Lower Merion lost to last season.

“We have great senior leadership coupled with a strong freshman class that came in and replaced last season’s outgoing senior class, which has certainly played a role in our success,” said Ries. “Everyone has been working hard and we have gotten on a little roll, which can be contagious. We have been a little lucky to be on the winning side. The girls also have trust in each other and the system.”

Lower Merion junior Lily Elman said, “It starts from the coaches and seniors and goes all the way down the roster. They have been so valuable and the key to our success. We have each other’s back on and off the field and pick each other up.”

“I just try to bring fortitude and spirit,” added LM senior captain Kaitlin Vagnoni. “I stress we need to take one game at a time and not focus on certain opponents like we used to and I believe that’s been key for our success.”

Staying focused on the task at hand, the Aces used a strong second half against both Springfield (D) and Radnor to break open close games and pull away for the decisive wins.

In their recent game against Radnor, the Aces held a slim 1-0 halftime cushion before coming out and posting a pair of goals from Elman within the first 10 minutes to provide a 3-0 cushion which turned out to be the final score.

“Lilly Elman put us on her back today,” said Ries. “She had all three goals and stepped up like the three-year starter she is.”

The second half outbreak was the second consecutive game the Aces have done this. Against Springfield (D), Lower Merion held a slim halftime lead before exploding out of the gates in the second half to cruise to victory.

“The coaches (Ries and coach Tara Shaw) have played a huge role in our strong second half play,” said Vagnoni. “They tell us what we need to improve on but do it a positive way. They also give us motivational speech and tell us to come out strong.”

Ries took a page from another Lower Merion coach when he reminded the girls, “It’s not  how you start, it’s how you finish.”

The strong offensive attack has been spurred by the play in the middle and back thirds of the field. Leading the way in the middle has been juniors Isabelle Kuszyk and Bella Peterson, while freshman keeper Bridget McCann has been the anchor of the defensive third.

With the regular season coming to a close and the PIAA District One Class 4A Playoffs on the horizon, the Aces will continue their recipe of success by focusing on one game at a time.

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