FRANCONIA >> Rain fell as the waning moments of the first overtime wound off the clock.
The ball had found its way to the foot of Lindsey DeHaven, fitting given the sophomore had scored the game-winner the last two times Pennridge faced Souderton. This time, she would not be so lucky as her point-blank shot was pushed away by Indians keeper Lindsey Pazdziorko.
Neither team scored, but the Indians still managed a point out of a 0-0 draw Thursday night and they could live with that.
“We have some great communication on the field now and we know each other inside and out,” Pazdziorko said. “Most of us have been playing together for the last four years and we work together really well. We talk all the time on the field, we know what the other people out there with us are going to do.”
A Towson recruit, Pazdziorko only got better as the weather got worse on Thursday. A 30-minute lightning delay halted the game with 10:28 left in the first half but once the teams got back on the pitch, Pennridge threw everything it had at Souderton.
If one thing has defined the Indians this fall, it’s the play of their defensive unit. Thursday’s match was the sixth draw for Souderton (7-2-6, 4-2-5 SOL Continental) this fall and while the offense hasn’t really clicked consistently, the back third has been rock solid.
Souderton has given up just seven goals all year, with three coming in a loss to Central Bucks South, so the group has proven very stingy. It’s an experienced group, with seniors Miranda Kullman, Sam Harwick, Kailee Harwick and junior Darby Kramer providing a tough wall in front of Pazdziorko and sophomore keeper Morgan Molyneaux.
“The whole time, I would say we had high intensity and we knew if one of us stepped up, we had to cover,” Kullman said. “We’ve been working together ever since we were little so we’ve had that passion and that drive. We wanted to beat Pennridge so we had to do it together.”
Over the past few seasons, the Rams and Indians have played a number of close games and gone into overtime in several of them. The reason is both teams are very good, especially in the midfield and on the defensive third so it’s really difficult to break them down.
Thursday’s matchup featured another tough battle in the middle with Pennridge’s group of Maddie Anderson, Nicolette Harrison, Chance Hendricks and Ashley Groeber dueling Souderton’s Campbell Power, Sara Readinger and Sarah Toche-Manley.
Groeber was very solid for Pennridge (11-2-1, 7-2-1) and her free kick service twice struck the crossbar in the late stages of the game.
“I thought we really improved from each half and going into the overtime,” Groeber said. “We played with more intensity. I think we were unlucky, but we were creating chances.”
Kullman said the twice annual matchup with the Rams is one she always looked forward to because both sides wanted to challenge each other up and down the field. Every tackle in the midfield was contested and both teams’ back lines didn’t give in as the attackers tried every trick they had to find room.
“Personally as a player, if someone is coming at me, I’m going to come back harder,” Kullman said. “If we’re coming back harder than them, it has an effect on all of us in general. That I felt happened tonight, we had high pressure and moved it up the field and connected the ball well.”
Life as a goalkeeper in the SOL Continental Conference isn’t an easy one but Pazdziorko has played as well as anyone else between the posts this season. A second-year varsity starter, the senior was sure handed and said she’s able to play with a little more flexibility this year because her defenders know what she’s going to be doing at any time.
Pazdziorko is a strong vocal presence in the back, but she doesn’t want it to be a one-way avenue. The senior is at her best when the defenders are talking back and tell her what they want her do, the same as she does for them.
“I’m more comfortable on the field now, last year was me getting my feet wet and getting into it but this year I’m a lot more settled with the team and all the girls,” Pazdziorko said. “We tried to stay focused the entire game. We were pumped, we were ready for this game and wanted it through and through.”
Groeber’s two cracks off the bar excluded, Pazdziorko was in position to make a stop on every shot she faced on Thursday. Her stop of DeHaven late in the first overtime stood out, but she also had a couple of key denials against Rams senior Abby Groff as part of her eight-save outing.
“It kind of just comes back down to basics,” Pazdziorko said of her late game-savers. “It’s me trusting myself knowing I can make the save.”
Pennridge was frustrated to not score, but the Rams otherwise felt they had done some good things in the run of play. The midfield held its own while the backs did a nice job of limiting Souderton’s front line and even getting some attacking runs started out of the back third.
Groeber said that Thursday’s match made the Rams better because they had to work just as hard as Souderton to not give up a goal and take a point from the match.
“The whole team brought it’s ‘A’ game,” Groeber said. “We in the midfielder worked on connecting passes and trying to settle the game down a little bit because Souderton is very good too. I think overall as a team, we really picked it up as we went longer into the game.”
Souderton faces Boyertown Friday while Pennridge heads to Abington as both teams take on challenging nonleague games with the postseason right around the corner.
“We’re confident in the back, we don’t panic that much,” Pazdziorko said. “Our defenders are confident, like Miranda, she’s going to go through anyone to get the ball and they take a lot of pressure off me by doing whatever it takes to get to it.”
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