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Pennridge’s pressure too much for Abington

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ABINGTON >> Maddie Anderson realized just how wide open she was and went for it.

The Pennridge junior midfielder found herself totally unmarked in space outside the Abington 18-yard box and with a pretty good shot from deep, took a chance. Anderson’s try was right on the money, putting the Rams back up two goals to quickly answer an Abington tally. That Anderson found herself so open was a result of the high pressure her team had started the game with.

Pennridge ended its week with a quality win, topping Abington 5-2 in an SOL girls’ soccer crossover game Friday afternoon at Memorial Field.

“The high pressure has actually been a struggle lately as we’ve gotten farther into the season,” Anderson, who scored two goals, said. “We’ve been getting more fatigued and pressure, so trying to keep up that high pressure has been something we’re trying to accomplish every game.”

Pennridge came into Friday’s match off an exhausting 0-0 double overtime with Souderton on Thursday but the Rams dug in and found some energy to start the match with the Ghosts, as the teams entered the contest No. 3 and No. 4 respectively in the District I 4A power rankings. It didn’t pay off in immediate goals, but the Abington back line did not play the composed soccer it had most of the season with Rams attackers bearing down on it.

Instead of moving the ball out of the back and connecting, Abington defenders sent panic balls out of bounds or up the field where Rams players could intercept it. Finally, one of those giveaways led to a breakthrough when Ashley Groeber spun a turnover into a through ball that set up Leah Malone for the finish.

“It was awesome, it was tough last night but we were pumped that we were able to play that hard,” Anderson said. “Coming back today and scoring this many goals just really boosted our confidence.”

Another poor clearance led to Pennridge’s second goal when Malone hustled to keep a ball alive on the endline before it found its way back to Kat Estep for a volley finish.

Abington coach Rick Tompkins knew his team would be pressured on Friday and pointed out his players didn’t handle it well. With the postseason starting in two weeks, he also felt it was a chance for his team to learn and respond.

“When I looked at the schedule, right off the bat I didn’t like that it was so late and I didn’t like was over at this field because I know it plays to their strengths and not ours,” Tompkins said. “Having said that and now having played it, I’m glad it happened when it did because we still have a week left and two very tough games plus one with Cheltenham who’s our archrival.”

Casey Touey scored both goals for Abington, the first on a terrific chip shot off a pass from Abby Bautista and the second on a bizarre play early in the second half. The problem for Abington was the Ghosts gave up any momentum off those goals almost right away with Anderson twice scoring to restore a two-goal lead.

“They were bad goals, defensively the pressure caused us to make mistakes that a lot of times we don’t make,” Tompkins said. “It’s good it happened now. They’re despondent but they’ll get over it and be back ready to go. Pennridge has a nice team, the back plays together well, the midfield is strong, (Abby) Groff is good and (Lindsey DeHaven) is tough.”

Anderson notched her first goal by knocking in Molly Groff’s corner kick to help Pennridge take a 3-1 lead into the break. Rams keeper Mary Kate Levush had two key stops late in the half, denying Touey and Cam Lexow in the final minutes.

After Touey made it 3-2, Anderson scored on her distance strike about two and a half minutes later to put the Rams back in control.

“Once I received the ball, I saw no one was going to pressure so you really can’t go wrong taking a shot,” Anderson said. “We just want to keep working, we can’t take a game off. Keeping up the intensity will be key for us.”

It wasn’t just offense on Friday, as Anderson helped the Rams’ center midfield play a good defensive game as well.

Anderson said the midfield’s performances are built on trust and it’s something the entire group has built up over the course of the season. Some combinations that were initially a little shaky or unsure with each other have gotten on the same page regardless of which specific players are filling the different spots in the center of the field.

Teaming with Chance Hendricks, Nicolette Harrison, DeHaven, Groeber and a few others, Pennridge did a good job of limiting Lexow’s touches on the ball.

“It was us focusing on what we could do,” Pennridge coach Audrey Anderson said. “We knew about her, but avoided over-thinking about her, I always say respect the player but don’t fear them. We have to know about these players, but not pay so much attention to them it pulls us away from our game.”

The Rams pride themselves on being able to adapt to a game and they did so against Abington, applying pressure, then playing a quick two-touch and move style in the middle to keep possession.

“I think what we take out of a game like this is we can play tough games during the week then show up on a Friday against a good team and put together a good performance,” Audrey Anderson said. “It wasn’t our best, but it was good enough to get us the result we want.”

PENNRIDGE 3 2 – 5

ABINGTON 1 1 – 2

Goals: P – Leah Malone (Ashley Groeber), Kat Estep (Malone), Maddie Anderson (Molly Groff), Anderson, Abby Groff; A – Casey Touey (Abby Bautista), Touey

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