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Reporter Soccer Notebook: Work still ongoing for area soccer squads

Souderton's Grace Kelley moves fast while Pennridge's Holly Harbeck has her eye on the ball during their game on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media

As shocking as it sounds, there’s roughly a month left in the high school soccer regular season.

Teams are starting to approach the midway point of their respective league schedules and there are a handful of highlight fixtures coming in the next 10 days. As soccer goes however, there are still plenty of sides looking to stamp down their identity or put the puzzle pieces in the right places.

A handful of area teams have established themselves as early league title contenders, but there’s still a lot of matches left to be played.

“What people may not see or remember is, it’s the same players  but there’s a different mental outlook on the season,” Pennridge girls soccer coach Audrey Anderson said after Monday’s 1-0 win over Souderton. “People want different things, they have different goals, they’re going different places. It takes a little bit of time for everybody to buy in to what we want to accomplish.”

The Rams, part of the loaded Suburban One League Continental Conference, sit just a point up on Souderton going into Thursday’s road match at Central Bucks East. Any coach in the Continental will say, but there’s no such thing as an easy fixture on that schedule.

Souderton is a good example of where a lot of squads sit at this point of the season. At 2-1-2, the Indians have played relatively strong soccer but they’ve left some points on the pitch and still haven’t decided if they’re deploying their players in the right formation. First-year varsity head coach Lindsy Jones, formerly the JV head coach, has plenty of talent and like many coaches, finds herself still in the evaluation stage.

“It’s a good thing for me to be able to come back and evaluate things like how do we attack when we’re playing a fast defense,” Jones said on Monday. “We can’t just play forward, we can’t play a direct game. There’s definitely another gear we can hit, so it comes down to finding the right combinations or even reviewing the formation and seeing if it’s most effective for our girls.”

The SOL Continental boys race is just as competitive. North Penn’s resurgent second half topped Central Bucks West in a pivotal early conference game on Monday, but Knights coach Paul Duddy was quick to caution any team in the league can beat any other at the drop of a hat.

For the Bucks, the match was what coach Stefan Szygiel dubbed “a pretty good punch,” something every team is going to take during the campaign.

Lower Moreland girls soccer is another side testing itself through this early stretch. The Lions strengthened their nonleague slate and while they didn’t get wins from every one of those contests, playing quality teams gives the kind of experience that helps out come postseason.

SEPARATION SEASON

Pick a league around the area and it’s a pretty safe bet a key fixture is coming up by the end of next week.

In the SOL American girls table, newcomer Abington and a surging Hatboro-Horsham have both started unbeaten in conference. They meet Thursday night at Hatters Stadium and if one side is able to win, could leave with a pivotal three points up in the title race.

The Philadelphia Catholic League doesn’t have the home-and-away series the SOL does in its three conferences, so each league game takes on even more importance. La Salle, the defending back-to-back league boys champion, is off to a 4-0 start as of Wednesday and hosts 4-0 Archbishop Wood on Oct. 25. Both sides still have a match with Roman Catholic, also 4-0, still to be played.

On the girls side, Lansdale Catholic, Archbishop Wood, Little Flower and defending PCL champ Archbishop Ryan are all 4-0. Given that none of that quartet have played yet, that table has a lot of setting still to be done.

Wissahickon’s big win over Abington on Monday tilted the SOL American boys table a bit, as the Trojans are now just a point (12-11) behind the Ghosts. They meet again, while Plymouth Whitemarsh (8 pts), Upper Moreland (7 pts) and Cheltenham (7 pts) are still in the mix. Speaking of Cheltenham and UM, both teams have taken big steps forward this fall under second-year head coaches.

WEATHER ISSUES

Between excessive heat at the start of the season or the seemingly unending rains of the last week-plus, there haven’t been too many pleasant days for soccer this fall.

There have been some postponements and reschedules, which isn’t exclusive to soccer teams so far this fall, but a lot of squads have toughed it out through the elements. Whether it was pushing back a start time to combat the heat, or taking full advantage of a turf field, area teams have done their best to get games played.

While there have been some extremes, like the second half of La Salle and Lansdale Catholic’s boys game that finished in a downpour, the quality of play hasn’t suffered much. Teams with grass fields have certainly had to adapt to some extra mud or bumps in the surface, but hopefully things are given a chance to dry out a bit before the stretch run.

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