Supp helps Pennridge edge North Penn

EAST ROCKHILL — The role of defensive midfielder is often an unglamorous one.

But when a defensive mid plays as well as Jess Supp did Thursday, it’s worth the attention. The Pennridge senior had a massive impact on the Rams’ 2-1 win over North Penn in girls’ soccer.

“Without a doubt, she had the best game of her season so far,’ Pennridge coach Audrey Anderson said. “She was so good that it changed the whole momentum.’

Supp owned the turf, acting as a fulcrum between the back line and attacking five. She also won several handfuls of tackles and opened space on offense with her distance shooting.

Acting as a shield in front of the backs, Supp and the defense locked down North Penn, limiting the Maidens to two shots on net.

“As our senior, our only senior, for her to have that game was really great,’ Anderson said.

Neither side dominated the first half, instead trading spells of pressure. The game opened with both teams trying to impose their will but a pair of stout back lines prevented either from establishing a foothold.

North Penn was anchored by center back Riley Houlihan, who made several big tackles and clears to break up Pennridge’s buildups.

On the other end, Pennridge’s Olivia Fernandez was just as tough. While she’s a rock in the back, Fernandez also has a nose for the ball in set pieces.

“Our main players up there are up there for a reason,’ right back Erin Stevenson said. “They’re aggressive to the ball and they’ll run through anything they see.’

Pennridge drew a corner at 25:31 and the service by Stevenson curled to the far post, where Fernandez met it on a late run at 25:05. But the lead would be short-lived.

For a team that’s scored, the minute after a goal can be deadly. The Rams conceded a free kick 21 yards out and 54 seconds after scoring, they conceded as Ally King drove the ball low and into the back of the net.

“Whenever we’re down 1-0 we usually get that determination and that fire in us,’ King said. “We don’t drag our heads or anything and we got a goal.’

Pennridge responded, generating a couple of chances out of the midfield, a deflection by forcing a save from Lauren Donnelly.

The Rams’ back line shut down North Penn after the goal, but the unit also contributed in other ways. Dani Meenan, playing through an injury, and Stevenson, made numerous runs up the flanks. Between the back four, keeper Kaitlyn Moran and Supp, the rotating coverage was excellent.

“Our chemistry in the back is really good, we’ve been playing club with each other since sixth grade,’ Stevenson said. “We know where each other is going to be, who’s going for the ball, who’s dropping. We talk to each other so well.’

Pennridge went back ahead with 14:34 to go thanks to a smart run and an aggressive midfield. A shot by from distance was parried by Donnelly, but she didn’t contain it.

As the ball bounced free, Jess Milligan surged in and clocked the ball into the waiting net. After being contained early in the half, Milligan became a threat into halftime.

“I didn’t think they were going to play stopper-sweeper so I thought we could just do a lot of give-and-go,’ Milligan said. “On offense we kept working together to keep distributing the ball to each other and getting the shots off and that seemed to work for us.’

The shooting from the midfield was a welcome addition, one spurred on by Supp. At one point, the senior asked her coaches if it was OK to keep shooting, to which they emphatically answered yes.

“Thank God she started shooting,’ Anderson said. “We were such a one dimensional team for so long that people were able to shut down our forwards and we needed shooting from other places.’

Milligan had a golden chance in the second half, snaking her way into a one-on-one with the keeper. However, she was left frustrated after skying the shot over the bar.

The junior striker has been in a bit of a slump, but finding the game-winner could be what gets her out of it.

“Whatever we put our minds to, we just keep pursuing what we want,’ Milligan said. “The more we want something, you can tell the harder we’ll work. As the season keeps going, we’re going to try to work harder.’

Pennridge controlled the flow in the second half, but the continuing play by the North Penn back line kept it to a one-goal game. Liz Volz teamed well with Houlihan, putting a timely foot down several times.

“We have amazing players,’ King said. “We’re all individually good and we play well as a team, which helps a lot.’

Supp kept up a constant pressure in the second half, while Stevenson asserted herself well on the right flank.

North Penn threatened with about 3:45 left, putting a shot wide, but the Maidens recovered to get it back in the box. The Rams cleared it, but North Penn was playing with desperation and kept coming.

“Our coaches always tell us to go in and act like it’s a playoff game and play them hard,’ King said.

North Penn had a final charge in the last 30 seconds, but could only get a low curler from distance that was easily saved.

“Tonight, they proved if they want something bad enough, and North Penn is a great team, you’ve got to earn it,’ Anderson said. “You can take the loss (to Central Bucks South) and let it ruin you and we weren’t sure what they were going to do. But they’re not OK with just being OK.’

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