ABINGTON >> It was a prime opportunity for Cam Lexow.
The Abington senior midfielder took a shot inside the box, striking it hard, low and through traffic. It was the sort of shot that most times, would have gone in the back of the net. Central Bucks East keeper Kiera Donnelly made sure it was one of the other times, sliding across her goal line and punching the shot away from the post.
Lexow could only turn and swing her arm in frustration. It was that type of night for Abington.
A pair of quality goals backed up a committed and resolute defensive effort as CB East topped Abington 2-0 Monday night at Schwarzman Stadium. Aside from handing Abington its first loss, the Patriots got a much-needed win at a crucial juncture of their season.
“We came out as a team today and we were all very motivated, it’s been a hard season but we’ve built each other up and stayed positive and I think it’s helped,” East defender Anna Bound said. “There was just a lot of energy coming from the bench and the field, it’s really a family.”
East’s (4-4-1, 2-3-1 SOL Continental) program is built on its defense but the Patriots had a tall order in front of them on Monday trying to slow down Abington (7-1-0, 6-0-0 SOL American), especially its trio of Lexow, Casey Touey and Kailey Horton. Bound, the Patriots’ right back, spent most of the night tangling with Horton up and down the flanks and won plenty of key tackles in that battle.
The Patriots also thrive by playing a constantly pressuring system and it was the perfect recipe to catch the Ghosts early. East attacked hard off the opening tip, getting a bit of sustained possession early and capped it off with their first tally not even four minutes in.
“They played very, very well and were tenacious and their goalie played out of her mind,” Abington coach Rick Tompkins said. “We had quality chances but it wasn’t meant to be. It makes them have to dig down and come back tomorrow to show this was a blip. This was our first taste of adversity.”
East center midfielder Marissa Plack, usually the team’s free kick taker, was able to carry the ball off a flank into space in the middle of the field and chanced a shot from distance. She hit the ball right on the money and it the right vane of wind blowing across the field, hammering her effort into the back of the net.
For a squad that’s had it’s ups and downs this fall, it was a much-needed breakthrough.
“I knew there was a big opening in the middle and I knew we needed to score a goal early, so I just took it,” Plack said. “It went in and I was pretty surprised. I think it helped us positively and we played really well on a high after that.”
CB East kept rolling after that goal but Ghosts keeper Ashley Hopper made six of her seven saves in the first half to keep her team in the game. Tompkins noted his team has been slow-starting all season, which the Patriots were all too happy to take advantage of.
Regarding those Abington chances, because the Ghosts had plenty, they couldn’t have come with much worse luck. Midfielder Abby Bautista twice struck the crossbar in the first half, Horton put a rebound over the net and Lexow had a driven free kick stopped by Donnelly.
“It’s unusual that between Kailey, Camryn and Casey, we didn’t get anything out of the three of them,” Tompkins said. “The good thing is, it’s early in the season. We’ll see what we’re made of, we have Cheltenham (Tuesday), Springfield Thursday and we can get back at in the conference.”
East took a 2-0 lead when Brooke Zarzycki broke through the back line into open space and put a terrific hit into the net with 24:58 left in the match.
The Patriots felt one goal wasn’t going to be enough, so the insurance tally only emboldened their efforts on the defensive end. While the entire back line played well, they still gave up some chances but in their favor was Donnelly.
Only a sophomore, the keeper started the season third on the depth chart but a string of injuries has forced her into a starting role. She was excellent on Monday, making five stops and plenty of needed plays like leaving her line early and grabbing a free ball a split-second before Touey could get to it.
“I felt like if we kept her calm and kept her confident, then the whole team would lift up around her,” Bound said. “She started the season as a backup, and she’s amazing at what she does but stepping onto a varsity field halfway through the season can be very nerve-wracking. She did such a great job.”
CB East’s defense starts up top, where its forwards press the ball at the back and extends all the way back to the keeper. The Patriots weren’t shy about selling out defensively either, throwing a leg or body in front of Abington’s shots or crosses into the 18-yard box.
“We put our bodies on the line tonight and I think it helped, there wasn’t any waiting for it to drop,” Bound said.
“We all put our hearts out on the field for each other,” Plack said. “We know we can depend on each other.”
The Ghosts have nonleague games scheduled with Neshaminy and Pennridge still to go this season, plus the second half of SOL American play and notably rematches with Upper Dublin and Hatboro-Horsham.
“CB East is a quality program, Neshaminy is a quality program, Pennridge is a quality program,” Tompkins said. “I set these games up by design, our girls aren’t going to get any better if they don’t get challenged. We got challenged tonight, we didn’t meet it but we’ll back at it tomorrow.”
CENTRAL BUCKS EAST 2, ABINGTON 0
CENTRAL BUCKS EAST 1 1 – 2
ABINGTON 0 0 – 0
Goals: CBE – Marissa Plack, Brooke Zarzycki. Shots: CBE – 9, A – 5. Saves: CBE – Kiera Donnelly 5, A – Ashley Hopper 7.
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