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Kolkka goes all-out as PW tops Souderton, clinches share of SOL American

Plymouth Whitemarsh's Sophie Kolkka controls the ball near Souderton's Riley McGowan during their game on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
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WHITEMARSH >> It would have been extremely difficult to find an inch of turf that Sophie Kolkka didn’t cover Monday night.

Whether it was on the offensive end, back on defense, anywhere in between in the midfield or even the draw control circle, Kolkka was there for Plymouth Whitemarsh. The senior midfielder was determined to win Monday’s game against visiting Souderton for a number of reasons and she played like it.

From her four goals to four assists, the numerous draw possessions she won and all the hustle around it, Kolkka was a force as the Colonials topped the Indians 13-7 on Senior Night to sew up at least a share of the Suburban One League American Conference title.

“It wasn’t anything specific, I was just trying to push it and get everyone as excited as I was,” Kolkka said. “It means everything. This game, if we hadn’t won, we’d have to share the league so everyone wanted to win, but I really wanted to win and win the league.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Lexi Petrakis battles Souderton’s Juliana Borisow for the ball during their game on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Last year was an agonizing one for the versatile midfielder, who also had three ground balls in Monday’s win. A major knee injury robbed Kolkka of all but a part of one game in her junior season, sidelining her all season as the Colonials (13-3, 8-0 conference) endured a wave of injuries across the board.

Healthy and fit this year, Kolkka has been a key cog in a deep and lethal attack, although her name doesn’t always show up in the book as a result. Still, it hasn’t slowed the St. Joseph’s recruit down, as Kolkka netted her 100th career goal last week.

PW started slow as a team on Monday, but Kolkka didn’t with a hand in three of the first four Colonial goals.

“I saw what I see all the time, she is all over up and down the field,” PW coach Ellen Reilly said. “Sometimes people don’t notice it because she doesn’t have all the goals all the time, but what she does off-ball, she gets those back-checks, hustles on the draw and works hard. You can’t ask for more than that. She leads our team on both ends.”

The midfielder’s hustle started off PW’s game-changing second half run. She chased down a Souderton player trying to flip the field to force a turnover, then quickly hit Lexi Petrakis for a breakaway goal that tied the score.

Her tally with 21:26 left in the game not only gave the senior a hat trick, but it put PW up 7-6, a lead the Colonials wouldn’t relinquish. She followed that up with a slick feed to Mac Lezsczynski, who had assisted the prior goal about 90 seconds later.

Kolkka’s best goal of the night came with 12:58 to play. Drawing a foul inside the eight-meter, Kolkka took the restart, wove her way around a pair of defenders and uncorked a shot with her stick parallel to the ground, almost side-arm, for a 10-6 advantage.

“I don’t think I’m a one-specific strength kind of player, I try to have a say in a lot of different things you have to do on the field,” Kolkka said. “It’s definitely all for and from my teammates, I look to them and they put the ball in the net too.”

Gene Walsh — Digital First Media
Souderton’s Riley McGowan moves upfield as Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Vic Betterly defends May 7, 2018.

The senior ended her night by assisting two of Lexi Petrakis’ four goals while continuing to zip to and come up with balls off the draw.

Kolkka, who chose St. Joe’s over Monmouth, Rutgers and La Salle, said winning at least a share of a conference title in her senior season meant a lot and it also gives her confidence this group can make a run in the postseason.

“It’s not really a feeling I can explain,” the senior said. “One game after another, I think we all just keep looking forward to the next game.”

Given that Kolkka wasn’t able to play at all last year, it almost seems like she’s trying to fit two seasons’ worth of output into one and the midfielder put together a performance to remember on the night she and her classmates were honored.

“I’m happy for her after last year with her knee injury,” Reilly said. “She deserves all of this, she really does.”

TIMELY TIMEOUT

Ellen Reilly has been coaching long enough to know when her team needs to calm down.

About midway through the first half on Monday, she saw all the signs and called for a timeout after a Souderton goal put the Indians up 4-1 with 13:55 left until halftime. Senior Night always tends to churn things up a bit more than usual, and the Colonials just weren’t on their game to start.

“All the carrying on and everything going on, I had to settle them down because they looked a little pressured,” Reilly said. “We just said settle down, play your game and it all starts with possession. They did a good job of that, once they settled down and did what they’re capable of doing, they were fine.”

Senior Victoria Betterly also felt that her team was out of sync to start the game. Souderton (11-5, 6-2) won the pregame coin toss and chose to defend the goal the Colonials usually take in the first half and added to the 7 p.m. start time and Senior Night stuff, just threw PW a bit off.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Kennedy Reardon maneuvers to pass during the Colonials’ game against Souderton on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“It was time for us to wind down and get our thoughts together,” Betterly said. “I think it shook us up a lot and we weren’t winning the draws to start off. (Reilly) just collected our team and got our thoughts all on one page and we played as a team after that. It was crazy, a lot of pregame jitters.”

Betterly, who notched two goals and an assist to go with her work on draw controls, said the Colonials were much smarter and composed in transition following the timeout. Kolkka and Betterly scored the next two goals out of the timeout and Betterly fed Raquel Baskin for a score with 25 seconds left in the first half to cut Souderton’s lead to 6-5.

“It was just our nerves coming out,” Kolkka said. “I think it was a momentum changer going into the second half, scoring that goal got us on the right track.”

DRAW DOMINANCE

Betterly and Kolkka were quite the force on draw controls after the first half timeout. While Kolkka made her mark hustling down loose balls off the initial draw, it was Betterly at the middle of the circle either putting the ball in play or winning it herself.

“It comes down to trusting one another,” Kolkka said. “Boxing out on the draw and letting other people on the draw to see what was working. You have to box out, everyone has to be there and working together.”

PW kept winning draw after draw and ripped off eight straight goals to start the second half, turning a deficit into a comfortable lead. Betterly said the game gets easier when a team can dictate possession off the draw the way the Colonials were most of Monday night.

“It’s really mental,” Betterly said. “You have to go in with the attitude that the ball is going to you 100 percent of the time so you have that first step on your opponent so you have to want it more than them.”

Sometimes, the best defense in lacrosse is to just keep the ball out of the other team’s sticks and PW really controlled time of possession in the second half. The Colonials’ depth on offense makes them a tough cover, even more so when they kept getting control of the ball.

“The fact we weren’t getting draw possession really changed the momentum of the game a lot,” Souderton coach Nancy Offner said. “They were getting one-v-one a lot more and they’re a dangerous team with good ball movement. When they started driving, they got us on our heels.”

Souderton’s Sarah Goodwin works to get a handle on a pass during the Indians’ game against Plymouth Whitemarsh on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Kolkka and Betterly felt it on the field and they made sure their teammates rode that hustle-fueled momentum into a well-earned win.

“After we get one draw control, then a goal, we got another and we just kept the momentum going,” Kolkka said. “I don’t think it’s something you can teach, but it’s something our team carries and it’s special. After you see one teammate trying and hustling, it makes the rest of us want to do the same thing.”

PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 13, SOUDERTON 7
SOUDERTON 6 1 — 7
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 5 8 — 13
Goals-Assists: PW – Sophie Kolkka 4-4, Lexi Petrakis 4-0, Victoria Betterly 2-1, Raquel Baskin 1-1, Ali Diamond 1-0, Mac Leszczynski 1-1; S – Riley McGowan 2-0, Anna Anello 2-1, Carlie Doughty 1-1, Liz O’Hara 1-0, Sarah Goodman 1-0, Averie Doughty 0-1, Kate Connolly 0-1. Shots: PW – 20, S – 14. Saves: PW – Meghan Ely 7, S – Lauren Scott 7.

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