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Pennsbury girls soccer punches through to states with win over Council Rock South

Pennsbury junior Christine Cataldo-Smith (21) advances ball by Council Rock South junior Sierra Tarantino (9) in District 1 quarterfinal battle between the schools Saturday, Oct. 28 on the Falcons' home pitch. (John Gleeson – 21st-Century Media)

FALLS TWP. – For local soccer fans, the matchup between Council Rock South and Pennsbury in the District One quarterfinals certainly ranked as a dream game. They saw two talented crosstown rivals battle right up to a final whistle that ended in a 1-0 Falcon victory.

Going into the game, Pennsbury was seeded sixth in the district by virtue of their 16-1-2 record. The Golden Hawks were close behind, boasting a 16-2-1 record. During the regular season, CR South dealt the Falcons their only loss, a 2-0 contest on Pennsbury’s home turf. The two teams then fought to a 0-0 double overtime tie in their second meeting.

Hope Drewes, captain and defensive stalwart for the Falcons, knew her team would need to play an intense brand of soccer to beat South. “We knew how they played and we felt we had to come out strong from the beginning. We did everything we could to prepare for this game.”

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The preparation included marking two of the Golden Hawks’ key players. “We knew they like to come up the middle a lot. A lot of their stronger players are in the middle and they like to go through them. We had Gabby (Zalot) on their center-mid, number 10 (Paige Mikula). That was the main person we wanted to keep the ball from. Riley (Young) was also marking their number 20 (Kiera Flanagan). That really helped having those two girls on their key players.”

The rest of the Falcon defense was equally impressive as they kept the high-scoring Golden Hawks from making any deep penetration into Falcon territory. Ella Palmieri, Taylor Muller, and Hope did an excellent job keeping everything in front of them.

Hope knows this is her assigned task. “I play left back which is basically defense. I just join the attack when I can and then I try to get forward and create opportunities. It’s my job along with the backline to make sure the offense doesn’t get through.”

The Falcons were equally aggressive on the offensive side of the field. They launched several volleys at South goalie Emily Helmich, who parried each assault. Helmich would end up recording eight saves for the Golden Hawks.

The one play Helmich could not blanket came on a crazy bounce that fell onto the most capable foot of Jenna Peters. Hope well remembers the moment. “The CR South defense had the ball. They passed it back to their goalie. Their goalie had a fluke bounce that rolled backwards and Jenna (Peters) was able to get their first. She took a touch toward the goal and then hit it into the corner.”

The 1-0 victory brought an understandable joy to the Falcons. “We were so excited that we won and were moving forward. We had made it to states and everyone was so happy. The coaches were so proud of us. It was a great feeling.”

For Hope, the key to success was the Falcons team unity. “I value the team chemistry as much as anything. Most of us have been playing together for years and we all get along great and that translates to the field as well. I think this year we’re very strong. Even though we’re from different years, we all talk to each other on the field. We all know how each other play and where we are going to be on the field.”

For four of the Pennsbury seniors, the big win over South was particularly gratifying. While the Falcons captured a District 1 championship in 2014, they had not gotten back to states until now, falling in D-1 playbacks in 2015 and 2016. “Our goal was to get to states. We haven’t gone in two years, so it’s just exciting we made it. We are really working.”

Next up for Pennsbury is the second-seeded Owen J. Roberts team (7 p.m. Wednesday night at OJR). “I know that they have some really good forwards that we need to watch out for. They beat Souderton so they’ll definitely be a good team.”

Based on their big win over the Golden Hawks, the Falcons are definitely ready for whatever challenge awaits them in the remaining district and state playoff games.

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