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Upper Moreland moves to 5-0, Jenkintown hangs tough in season opener

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UPPER MORELAND >> Midway through the first half, not a lot was going right for the Jenkintown girls lacrosse team.

The Drakes trailed undefeated Upper Moreland and hadn’t gotten a shot on goal while the Golden Bears were dominating possession. Then, Mia Kolb put a shot away and the Drakes started to settle in. It wasn’t enough to come back, but it was a good start for their first game of the season.

Upper Moreland meanwhile, showed why it’s been on such a tear to start the season, relying on everyone in a 13-7 home win Thursday afternoon.

“We came out hungry and started this season ready to play,” UM senior MG Wood said. “Something we’ve really been focusing on is not letting those wins early let us get big heads and just focusing on each step at a time. Our coaches just mentioned growing and I think that’s a key to our success.”

UM has been impressive out of the gate this year, topping teams by big margins while not relying on one or two standouts to do everything. On Thursday, six different players scored and 10 of the 13 goals came via an assist.

Jess Flanagan led Upper Moreland with four goals, while Chloe Leiter bagged a hat trick and Cassidy Hirsch and Bryanna Gordon each netted two goals. Emma Meakim had three assists, as did Moira Olexa and Hirsch added two helpers to her two goals.

“Most teams have one or two people they absolutely can’t play with and I think we have 12 starters who are phenomenal,” Wood, who had five ground balls and a caused turnover, said. “We have girls who have been playing together, it seems like forever, so we have the connections and having 12 solid starters, not one or two who carry the team, has given us a lot of success.”

While Upper Moreland played its fifth game on Thursday, it was just the first of the season for Jenkintown. Between inclement weather and a sizable portion of the roster being part of the state championship basketball team, there just hasn’t been time for the Drakes to get together.

It showed early, as UM raced out to a 5-0 lead while keeping Jenkintown mostly on the defensive. Kolb scored on an eight-meter shot and despite the Bears getting the next three, Isabella Byler added one more to the Drakes’ ledger on a long solo run up the field.

While the result wasn’t what Jenkintown wanted, coach Ken Rodoff was happy with his team’s effort, especially the fact that UM only outscored his side 8-7 after the first 12 minutes.

“We’ve really only had three days of practice so this was a good showing for us,” Rodoff said. “I’m happy with the way we played, not the outcome but I’m proud of how they competed and we worked on the skills we talked about in our 1-v-1 defense, trying to take care of the ball and avoiding what we knew was going to be Upper Moreland’s pressure.”

The Drakes have 26 players on the roster this year, which is a big number for the small school and Rodoff said they have a full JV team for the first time in his three seasons. Half the roster are sophomores or freshmen, with 10 ninth graders in the fold and already seeing time.

Freshman Tanner Lafferty started and scored a goal, while fellow freshmen Carly Mulvaney, Molly Walsh and Cady Westkaemper getting minutes off the bench. Jenkintown’s confidence and discipline went up with each passing minute and while the Drakes did have a high number of turnovers, many of them were things that work themselves out through playing time.

“I don’t think we knew what we could be until that first goal,” Rodoff said. “We were a little tentative during the week because it was almost three weeks of no season and we were just meeting each other for the first time. Once we got that goal, people saw we had the ability to get goal-scoring opportunities and convert on them.”

Starting well offensively is one thing, but it doesn’t mean much if the defense isn’t getting stops. So far, the Bears back end has been playing up to par with the offense, as Thursday’s 8-2 halftime lead and Wednesday’s 11-1 halftime edge demonstrate.

The Bears are a sophomore-heavy group, but seniors like Wood and goalie Cheyanne Grumm have gotten the defense on the same page out of the gate. Grumm made seven saves on Thursday and has liked the way the entire defense, including the midfielders who drop back, have played so far.

“We’re doing well on our doubles and crashes on the defensive end and our transitions have been getting better going back to the end of last year,” Grumm said. “We’re taking attackers to the sidelines, following them, pressuring the ball and making them drop it or turn it over. The sophomores play together in club and we figured out last year they’re really good and were able to mix in with us.”

Rodoff said the Drakes will have just one day scheduled for practice between Thursday and April 23, but they’re going to use games as on the job training. Jenkintown faces two more SOL teams before its BAL opener with Lower Moreland and the third-year coach wants to see his group getting better while also learning from its mistakes until then.

 “They were a good team, they came out ready to play and with this being their first time on a full field, that’s hard,” UM coach Kim Frantz said. “We’re five games in now, we knew what we were getting into but they definitely pushed us and made us work hard.”

The Bears, who used Thursday’s game as a chance to work on a new defense, have sights set on the postseason and pushing for the state tournament. It’s a moderately young group, but as Grumm said, a very unselfish one.

“Our main goal has been to go farther than we did last year,” Wood said. “We got beat right before states and this year, we are hoping to get further than that, which I have absolute confidence we can do. We’d like to get one of the top seeds going into playoffs and if we keep up this level of work, I think that’s absolutely possible.”

UPPER MORELAND 13, JENKINTOWN 7
JENKINTOWN 2 5 — 7
UPPER MORELAND 8 6 — 13
Goals-Assists: UM – Jess Flanagan 4-0, Chloe Leiter 3-0, Bryanna Gordon 2-0, Cassidy Hirsch 2-2, Emma Meakim 1-3, Meg O’Donnell 1-0, Abby Ellenwood 0-1, Moira Olexa 0-3; J – Mia Kolb 2-0, Amelia Mulvaney 2-0, Isabella Byler 1-0, Tanner Lafferty 1-0, Caroline Arena 1-0. Shots: UM – 23, J – 14. Saves: UM – Cheyanne Grumm 7, J Aniya Cager 9.

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