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Two of a kind: Groffs an integral part of Pennridge puzzle

Souderton's Averie Doughty taps the ball away from Pennridge's Molly Groff during their game on Monday, Sept. 16, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)
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After she spots the ball for a corner kick, one of the first things Molly Groff does is look for the No. 16 jersey in the box.

Groff, who wears No. 13, knows if she serves the ball to where her twin sister Abby, No. 16, is, or is going to be, it’s probably going to create a good scoring chance for Pennridge. The seniors have scored a couple sister-to-sister goals this fall, but that’s far short of the impact the twins have made for the Rams.

Abby, a forward and Molly, a center back, have been an integral part of the puzzle for the Rams the past two seasons. They’ll be teammates together next year at Bloomsburg but they’re also looking to extend this campaign in Saturday’s PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal round against Parkland.

“It’s been such a ride the past two years,” Molly said after practice Thursday afternoon. “We grew as soccer players together, we’re going to college together. We work off each other, we can get a little mad at each other on the field for sure, but it’s cool seeing each other succeed on the field.”

Pennridge’s Abby Groff chases down a pass during the Rams’ game against Souderton on Thursday, October 11, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Groffs have never played on different teams — from youth leagues through middle school, club and high school — and they’ve never played the same positions. Abby, the Rams’ leading scorer the past two years, has always played an attacking role while Molly, the back line’s stopper, has always been on the defensive end.

Their respective positions fit their respective personalities. Rams coach Audrey Anderson said Molly is the more outgoing of the two, which helps with the communication-heavy job of defending while Abby is the more reserved, making her noise through her scoring.

“I’ve loved seeing the growth from those two over the last four years, they’re so hard on each other but I feel as they’ve gotten older and more mature, they get it and feed off each other,” Anderson said. “They’re their own worst critics but they’re a fun duo.”

Anderson added that last year, when Molly played as an outside back and Abby spent time on the wing, she didn’t play the twins on the same side of the field. Even on Thursday, their tendency to get on each other’s case for missed plays or mistakes still broke through, but it’s not coming from a bad place, they’re just both competitive.

 “I think it’s better we don’t play the same position,” Molly said. “If we played next to each other, we’d probably be on each other all the time.”

“Molly’s tough, if she doesn’t think her sister is giving everything, she’ll tell her,” Anderson said. “And Abby will tell her right back.”

As sophomores, the twins were reserves on a senior-heavy team that went to the second round of the state tournament. Abby got playing time off the bench as an attacker, even notching a shootout-winning spot kick in the District 1-4A semifinals against Central Bucks South, while Molly contributed in practices.

Abby and Molly both said being around so many talented seniors that year — many who went on to play in college — planted the idea that they would both try and play at the next level. Before they could do that, the twins had to settle into much larger roles on the Rams as juniors.

“Learning from those past players, I picked up how to make more dangerous runs, seeing more dangerous balls I could play to other forwards and checking back to help,” Abby Groff said. “I think being around all those former players as a freshman and sophomore helped me grow as a player.”

Abby quickly found a niche as the team’s go-to scorer and showed a knack for putting away overtime goals, including the one that handed the Rams a home win over Souderton last year, a goal she dubbed her favorite at Pennridge. As the senior in the attack, Groff has tried to let her work ethic set the example for the underclassmen around her.

“I have to prepare for it mentally and physically and mentally, it’s hard when you know a team is man-marking you but Aud says to be constantly moving and come in expecting it,” Abby Groff said. “Hard work is the biggest factor in that.”

“Hard work” might as well be Abby’s catchphrase with how often the forward brings it up during interviews and her sister gave a very knowing glance when it was mentioned to her. Hard work is just as much a benchmark on the defensive side, even if that end of the field doesn’t always get the same credit.

“This year, we’re playing with mostly the same people, I mean we lost Court (Supp) which is a huge deal, but last year we got to know each other and now we’re basically the same group,” Molly said. “We’re team players, you can say that about everyone on this team, but for us, it’s always been about hard work.”

Molly committed to Bloomsburg first but the defender said she didn’t try to push her sister in the same direction. Abby’s mind was pretty much made up anyway, she just had to wait for a couple things to fall in line for her desired major in nursing. The twins are continuing a pipeline from Perkasie to Bloomsburg with former Rams Jess Supp and Jess Milligan on the Huskies’ roster.

The Groffs have connected on a couple goals this season, which Abby said is a source of immense joy for their parents any time it happens, but Molly has provided plenty of other assists this fall.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Abby said. “Both of us being able to play on the same field has been so amazing. Every time she’s assisted me, it just makes it that much more fun and a little surreal. It’s definitely a sister connection.”

In her tenure at Pennridge, Anderson has coached a lot of siblings and the Groffs aren’t her first set of twins. Having so many sets of siblings come through has fostered a very tight bond between the players on the field and it’s been a benefit for the program.

Both Abby and Molly Groff said they’re satisfied with the team’s accomplishments this season, especially getting back to states after a shockingly early exit in the district tournament last year. The twins are trying to make the most of whatever time they have left playing for Pennridge.

Anderson said she’s going to miss all eight of her seniors next year and with the Groffs, those moments where through all their critiquing of each other, they took joy in the other’s accomplishments.

“I like when one of them does something great, the other one is the first there to celebrate with them,” Anderson said. “I love the banter they have back and forth. They’re not going to be roommates but I think having those two girls in the same program will be fun for their coaches but they also bring a different element to any program, from their goofiness, to how they treat each other. They couldn’t be more different but I really believe they’re each other’s best friend and are truly there for each other.”

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