ABINGTON >> The soccer gods are known to be fickle entities.
Hatboro-Horsham girls soccer coach Kelsey Daley joked that she and assistant Kate Doyle were praying to the soccer gods before Tuesday’s SOL American league game at Abington, asking for a few breaks. After the match, Ghosts coach Rick Tompkins mused the soccer gods were not his team’s side when it came to finishing chances.
The soccer gods may exist in some form, but was real and apparent Tuesday was the Hatters’ effort as they handed Abington its first loss in the SOL American conference with a 1-0 win at Schwarzman Stadium.
“No. 3 (Cam Lexow) is their best player, so we had to shut her down along with (Casey Touey),” Hatters defensive mid Cam Ryan said. “Once we got them out of the game, it just became about getting a ball in the back of the net.”
In their first meeting, the Ghosts won 3-2 in a thriller that came down to a couple defensive stands in the final minutes. Tuesday was instead a tight scoreless contest that got increasingly chippy and physical as the clock wound on deeper into the second half. The Hatters weren’t afraid to play a quick game against Abington again, so long as they could keep some of the Ghosts top weapons in check.
For Ryan, it meant shadowing Lexow and the Hatters junior held her own in the midfield. In the back, Rachel Petrowski drew the assignment of marking Touey and was able to keep the high-scoring sophomore limited to just a handful of touches.
“It really fires me up,” Ryan said of her defensive role this season. “Especially tonight, they were undefeated in our league and beat us on our field. All we wanted to was beat Abington and to do that, we had to come out as strong as we could.”
Hatboro-Horsham didn’t want to get into a bunker-down type of game, even though Daley tried to get her players to slow down after they scored, because the Hatters felt the best way to beat the Ghosts was to attack them. With Ryan and Sophia Liott doing their job in the middle and Petrowksi, Izzy de la Torre, Peighton Toale and Taliah DeLuca holding firm in the back, the Hatters had lanes to push the ball up the field.
It also helped that freshman goalkeeper Martine Royds was on her game, making seven stops to post the shutout.
With Kara Thomas and Mads Falcione on the outsides, the Hatters had the legs to go at Abington’s back line. Emily Thomas was solid in the middle of the front line and Maggie O’Neill turned in another hard-working effort as they tried to put the Ghosts defensive unit under pressure.
“We knew we had to keep getting the ball up the field because if (Touey) got the ball, we were dead,” O’Neill said. “If we got the ball up to our top players, they would find a way to finish.”
Tompkins could live with his team’s not finishing chances on Tuesday but he was disappointed with how a few players lost their composure amid mounting frustrations in the second half. Tempers flared after the Hatters went ahead, with an Abington defender drawing a red card for escalating things after being whistled for a foul.
Abington clearly had its opportunities, but the soccer god of woodwork proved especially antagonistic. Lexow hit a combination of crossbar and Royds’ palm on a free kick and Elizabeth Tracey put a shot right into the post with an open window to finish in the second half.
“We didn’t finish and it’s really that simple,” Tompkins said. “Kailey Horton had a about a million chances in the first half, she broke the defender down and put a cross in the way we train and there was no one on the end of it. Down here, Tracey hits the post and Lexow hits a crossbar, it’s unlucky. You can’t ask them to do any more than that, some nights it just doesn’t go your way.”
O’Neill has shown a knack for big goals this season and added another to her register with 11 minutes left. Falcione started the sequence by getting a ball into the box that Kara Thomas was able to turn into a shot. Thomas’ hit was blocked but the rebound found its way to O’Neill in space and the sophomore hit a terrific volley that ducked under the crossbar to break the deadlock.
“We just capitalized on their mistakes in the back,” O’Neill said. “We pressured as a team and I finished the shot. We did it together and that’s what won it.”
The result could impact both teams beyond Tuesday night. Hatboro-Horsham should be all but a lock for its first postseason bid in six seasons, a testament to a roster that relies heavily on underclassmen and a first-year coaching staff that’s helped the team play confident soccer.
For Abington, Tompkins felt a top-eight seed and first round district playoff bye was no longer a given and noted the extra emphasis it now puts on Friday’s nonleague visit to Neshaminy.
“The best teams in the world, Manchester City loses and they don’t quit, they go on to the next one and play hard,” Tompkins said. “We made some mistakes, we’ll have to learn from it and not make the same mistakes. I’m more disappointed in the loss of cool, we had a couple players lose their composure and there’s no reason for it.”
Hatboro-Horsham hosts Plymouth Whitemarsh on Thursday. The Colonials edged the Hatters 1-0 in the first meeting, so there was enough incentive for the players to not dwell too much on Tuesday’s triumph, even in the jubilant celebration following the final horn.
“We have to keep focused, use this as a positive but only if we apply to our next game,” O’Neill said. “We have to go into our next game and play the exact same way as we did tonight.
“Right from the start, we had a win against Tennent and we knew we had something. We had a couple rough game, but we came together as a team and this win shows how far we’ve come.”
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