UPPER DUBLIN >> It was a good week for Emily Booth and a good week for Upper Dublin’s back line.
Booth, the Cardinals’ striker, bagged a brace Thursday afternoon to run her total goals for the week up to three while the UD defense posted its second straight shutout. Not to be lost in the middle was a midfield that won a lot of challenges and balls to make things a little easier on the backs and on Booth.
What it all added up to was a 3-0 win over Wissahickon as UD continues to come together after an up and down start to the season.
“We’re definitely communicating better,” UD senior center back Sascha Keitz said. “We had a change of personnel from last year to this year and I think it’s finally starting to click and we’re getting on the same page of when to step up and when to drop off and our clearances have been a lot better.”
The Cards returned the core of their back line with Katie King and Kaitlyn Brown joining Keitz and Laura Pendleton taking a holding center mid position but there were still some changes. Most notably was behind the back line, where freshman Rachel Adelman replaced the graduated Devon Jones.
With a new voice, and a first-year starter at keeper, behind them, it naturally took a few games for the defense to get acclimated to the change. On Monday, in a 1-0 win at Plymouth Whitemarsh, the Cardinals (4-3-0, 4-2-0 Suburban One League American) also made a positional change, putting Brown at right back and Maddie Sanders in the middle, where they played on Thursday.
“We’re playing to our strengths now and not worrying about the other team as much,” Keitz said. “We’ve done a good job of coming together.”
Booth has shaken off her own slow start to the season, getting over a nagging ankle injury to regain her form around the goal. After scoring the lone goal against PW, Booth scored a pair of quality goals on Thursday to bookend a rocket of a shot by Tina Haig.
Each of her goals was set up in a similar fashion, a ball won by the players behind her turned into a long ball over the top that the speedy Booth could run down. The first came via Haig, who looped one over the top and Booth did the rest, touching past the keeper and running down the ball for a tap-in finish 15:22 into the match.
“We started out the season pretty rough and weren’t connecting,” Booth said. “We sat down and had a team meeting, talked about what we had to do and I think we’ve started to connect a lot better.”
Wissahickon, with first-year coach Chris McDaniels now at the helm, is still trying to find its identity. The Trojans, now 3-4-0 (3-3-0), have had some instances of success, but they’re still seeing what it takes to beat some of the upper level teams in the SOL American Conference.
“It’s desire and work ethic and right now from a work-ethic standpoint, we’re not putting ourselves in a position to win games against good teams,” McDaniels said. “We’re still figuring out how to play together and while that’s occurring and we’re figuring out what we want to do with the ball, we’re going to have to out-work teams to get results.”
Wiss has two really good forwards in Peyton Weber and Carly Amato, but the rest of the squad is still unsettled. On Thursday, the defense wasn’t resolute on whether to play up or drop off at times, leaving Booth a lot of space to make runs in.
In the midfield, the Trojans weren’t as adept at winning the ball as Upper Dublin, with the Cardinals also getting hard-working center mid Lexie Moss back from an injury. Wiss also lost a 4-2 game to Abington earlier this week and fell 3-2 in overtime to Hatboro-Horsham earlier this season, the top two teams in the conference.
“We came out of these games with the understanding that if we don’t work hard, it can get ugly,” McDaniels said. “We’ve spent some good time on it, but we need to spend a little more time on it. We’re just making decisions fast enough.”
McDaniels did note the play of Lieke Black on Thursday, a player he moved from outside back to advanced center midfield. Black, a good track athlete, created one of Wissahickon’s best chances in the second half when she was able to play herself through and had a line toward goal.
That run got cut down by Keitz, who was able to get the ball off Black’s feet. UD made quite a few stops like that on Thursday and the team’s overall speed on the back end is an asset it plans to use more now that things have clicked on the back line.
“It takes a lot of pressure off the backs because we know we can rely on each other to get back,” Keitz said. “It also helps us to be able to get up and involved in the game more in the upper third and contribute to the attack.”
Haig put UD up 2-0 early in the first half on a laser of a shot following a corner before Booth closed out the scoring midway through the second half. Another ball bombed out of the back found its way over the Wiss defense and Booth was able to put herself one-on-one with the keeper.
The striker complimented her teammates in the midfield and back for providing the kind of services that allow her to put her speed to best use. Once she got the ball, Booth showed composure as she tucked the ball inside the near post.
“I try to just pick a corner and think of it more as a pass than a shot,” Booth said. “If I overshoot it, it’ll go over and it gets harder to score if I think about it too much.”
UPPER DUBLIN 1 2- 3
WISSAHICKON 0 0 – 0
Goals: UD – Emily Booth 2, Tina Haig. Shots: UD – 7, Wiss -2. Saves: UD – Rachel Adelman 2; W – Quinn Klessel/Caroline Hassel 4.