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North Penn edges Upper Dublin as both teams fight for playoff berths

North Penn’s Kristin Varilla runs the ball along the sidelines as Upper Dublin’s Ryann Kullmann defends during their game on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
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UPPER DUBLIN >> North Penn entered the week No. 24 — the final playoff team — in the latest District 1 Class 3A power rankings with five games to play.

The Knights took one step closer to solidifying a postseason berth Monday when they beat Upper Dublin, 1-0, in a cross-conference Suburban One League matchup at Upper Dublin High School.

“We knew we needed to get the momentum,” North Penn captain Kristin Varilla said, “and this was the game we needed to do it in. We just need to go one game at a time — one goal at a time — and that’s what we did today.”

North Penn hosts Central Bucks West — a league rival that is right behind them in the D1-3A rankings — Tuesday and Central Bucks South later in the week. Next week Conestoga and Pennridge are on the schedule.

Gene Walsh — Digital First Media
North Penn’s Deborah Kim works to dribble past Upper Dublin’s Maisie Hanson October 8, 2018.

“These next two weeks are very important,” North Penn coach Shannon McCracken said. “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time. Today was a nice win to start the week. It is very important as we hopefully move into the postseason.

“Right now every game is a must-win. Every team is improving. Upper Dublin gave us a great game today. Every team is improving, so we just need to be ready and every game is important at this point. You never know what can happen. You never want to get caught back on your heels. You just want to keep moving forward and doing the things you should do to get into the playoffs.”

Upper Dublin came into the North Penn game ranked No. 12 in the D1-2A rankings. The Cardinals will face Plymouth Whitemarsh, Wissahickon, William Tennent and Springfield to close out the regular season. They need to finish in the top 16 to qualify for the playoffs.

Upper Dublin’s Maisie Hanson reaches to knock the ball away from North Penn’s Alex Fein during their game on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“Obviously this isn’t going to help us right now because we didn’t get any points from it,” Upper Dublin coach Heather Boyer said, “but we knew coming into this week this is going to be the hardest week of the season yet. We had North Penn today, PW (Tuesday) and Wissahickon Thursday. That’s a rough week. You just have to try one game at a time and see if you can get the points along the way somewhere.

“We’re trying to win as many games as we can to stay within that top 16. If we can get a couple quality wins at the end of the season here maybe jump into that eight or higher spot for homefield, but just to be able to make the playoffs and compete would be a good achievement.”

The Knights (5-9-0, 3-6-0 SOL Continental) broke a scoreless tie early in the second half. On a penalty corner Jillian Lampitoc’s insert pass went to Amberly Christiansen, who quickly turned and found Emily Crawford. Crawford wound up for a shot, but Upper Dublin goalie Meghan Muth was there to make the save. Varilla was there to clean up the rebound and put the ball into the back of the cage.

“I just saw it coming,” Varilla said. “I stayed low and I just saw the back of the net, really. It was a great shot by Emily. I just followed it through.”

Upper Dublin’s Lydia Casey and North Penn’s Meghan Daniels reach for a loose ball during their game on Monday,  Oct. 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

After managing just one shot on goal in the first half, North Penn had more opportunities to score in the final 30 minutes — putting six shots on goal after intermission.

“We were getting the ball in the circle in the first half but we weren’t getting any shots off,” McCracken said. “We talked at halftime it doesn’t need to be a perfect setup, executed shot. We just need to get something going.”

The Knights had three very good scoring chances to double their 1-0 lead, but Muth was there to keep the Cardinals (7-6-1. 6-4-1 SOL American) within striking distance.

Upper Dublin’s offense was never able to figure out the Knights defense. They managed just one shot on net over the course of the game.

Upper Dublin’s Jenn McCarry dribbles up field as North Penn’s Ali Hoffman defends October 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“North Penn’s defense is pretty solid back there,” Boyer said. “(Madison Waldspurger) is definitely a very steady stick in the backfield. That’s tough to get by. And their goalie was decent, too. She had good clears. We just couldn’t seem to get that momentum from midfield into the circle and then when we did we never really got a good, solid shot off on goal.”

“I thought our defense played really strong in the backfield,” McCracken said. “Particular Mallory (Stowell) is doing a good job in goal for us. She’s a sophomore and she’s starting to settle into the position. I liked how the girls were stepping to the ball and out-letting pretty quickly, so we weren’t giving them a ton of opportunities.”

Upper Dublin was able to force a penalty corner in the final seconds of regulation to earn an untimed play, but the first shot hit an Upper Dublin player in front of the net. The whistles blew to signal the end of the play and the end of the Cardinals comeback attempt.

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