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Midfield shifts the tide as Pennridge tops Souderton

Pennridge's Maddie Anderson and Souderton's Campbell Power battle for the ball during their game on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

EAST ROCKHILL >> Size doesn’t matter in soccer.

Being the smallest player on the field didn’t stop Lindsey DeHaven from scoring the game-winning goal and despite giving up a few inches to everyone else in the midfield, Nicolette Harrison just kept winning the ball. It was another typical Pennridge-Souderton match, tense and well-played but in the end, the Rams found just a little more when they needed it.

DeHaven’s header with 7:44 left lifted the Rams to a 1-0 win Monday afternoon at Helman Field in a contest that was sorted out in the midfield.

“It came down to holding our ground,” Harrison, a senior center midfielder, said. “We needed to cover a lot of ground today and we all put in that work and we all ran the extra mile to make sure we got there and keep the ball from getting to our backs.”

While the Rams were shorthanded in the midfield with Chance Hendricks injured, their center unit kept pace with the Indians’ talented central core for a half. In the second half, spurred by Harrison’s toughness, Maddie Anderson’s discipline and Ashley Groeber’s determination, the Rams midfield change the tide of the match.

Souderton’s Grace Kelley moves fast with Pennridge’s Holly Harbeck having her eyes on the ball during their game on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Harrison, who just committed to West Chester last week, was a catalyst all match. Having split time as a starter and reserve throughout the season, the senior is a classic hard-worker who more than held her own against Souderton’s Campbell Power and Sara Readinger.

“I don’t know what happened mentally, but we sort of stopped playing our game and more resorted to kicking it long,” Souderton coach Lindsy Jones said. “That’s not our game and we don’t succeed when we play that way. We play the same formation and they executed it a lot better than we did.”

Jones felt the Rams’ central midfield was the difference in the second half because the Rams kept doing what had worked well for both teams in the first half. Despite a near-constant rain, both teams pinged the ball around the field well in the opening 40 minutes.

When the ball moved with one or two touches and with purpose, both sides were able to get forward. In the instances where the ball got stuck, that’s when the play got broken up either in the midfield or by the back lines.

“After halftime, we talked about our intensity level can be much higher and should be higher,” Rams coach Audrey Anderson said. “In the second half, we recognized that and we were able to pick up our intensity level. By doing that, we connected a lot easier because there was more movement off the ball.”

Pennridge’s Kat Estep rises to head the ball away from Souderton’s Hannah Alderfer during their game on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

There were chances in the first half, but both keepers were up to the task. Souderton’s Lindsey Pazdzoriko made six saves, palming away an Abby Groff volley in the first half and punching a screamer from Maddie Anderson over the bar in the second half.

Pennridge’s Mary Kate Levush made three saves and all of them crucial, going low to cover a well-hit ball by Power, palming away a close-range header by Kristin Loh and covering a chip try by Erin O’Keefe. The senior keeper backed up another solid effort by the Rams’ back line, with seniors Sarah Williams and Holly Harbeck taking care of several Souderton runs.

“This is Holly’s first year back since her ACL tear and I’ve been very happy with her soccer ability,” Anderson said. “Sarah and Molly (Groff) have played with each other for a while and the five or six girls I play back there, like Maddie Angelo and Lauren McIntyre, they have a good relationship.”

DeHaven said the coaches rated the Rams’ intensity level at a five or six in the first half and challenged them to up it to an eight or nine in the second half. The sophomore, who scored the game-winning goal in last year’s second meeting with Souderton, said she played off the effort from the center midfield.

Harrison called the win a complete team effort and added the midfield was able to up its game by working with the backs to connect and cover more ground.

“It’s all mental, you have to know you want it more,” Harrison said. “When you step in front, you have to throw your whole body in there, you can’t just put a foot or a shoulder and expect to win it. If you want it, you’ll get it.”

Souderton’s Averie Doughty taps the ball away from Pennridge’s Molly Groff during their game on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

Souderton is still looking to find the right mix five matches into the season. Jones said there were several things she wanted to look at after Monday’s match, including the best way to employ the team’s pieces even if means adjusting the formation.

“We’re always looking for creativity up front,” Jones said. “If we’re predictable and not moving off the ball well, it’s easy to defend us in the final third. We need to continue to work on ways to create space for ourselves and also execution on the pass. We were there, we were winning balls but we weren’t quite there on the delivery.”

DeHaven saw Abby Groff get the ball in the box and just wanted to put herself in the area as the senior lined up a shot.

“She turned and was looking for a shot so I knew either the goalie could save it or she could have scored and I was just going in to follow up,” DeHaven said. “It just came to me and I got up and headed it. It was a good ball from Abby.”

DeHaven said as she started to run it, she noticed the ball was a bit ahead of Groff so the sophomore figured it was going to curl away from the goal. The ball did drift to the far post and with the keeper pulled to Groff’s side, DeHaven was able to put a clean header into the back of the net.

“I stopped my run, saw it coming then accelerated again and got my head on it,” DeHaven said. “Our team against their team, it’s always a big game and we’re always so energized for it. My teammates around me hype everybody up and we get so excited and rally each other.”

Goals: P – Lindsey DeHaven (Abby Groff) 62’. Shots: P – 7, S – 3. Corners: P – 1, S- 2. Saves: P – Mary Kate Levush 3, S – Lindsey Pazdziorko 6

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