Haber’s goal gives Upper Dublin win over Springfield, share of SOL American title

SPRINGFIELD — Some players are very analytical, reading what’s in front of them and knowing exactly what they’re going to do.

Upper Dublin midfielder Rebecca Haber is not one of those players. At least, she wasn’t with the ball on her foot early in the second half against Springfield.

Haber’s fantastic finish seven minutes into the second half was the difference as the Flying Cardinals girls’ soccer team defeated the host Spartans 2-1 in a tight, compelling match Thursday night. The win secured a share of the Suburban One League American Conference for Upper Dublin and puts the Cardinals in a good position to slip into the District 1-AAA field.

“I saw an opening and I just took it,’ Haber said. “I hoped that it went in, and it did.’

As is the case with most backyard rivalries, the game had a bit of an edge. Springfield, honoring its seniors, was going all-in to defend its home turf. They wanted, and possibly needed, the game and played like it for 80 minutes, but especially in the opening spell.

“Both teams came out with such adrenaline early on, our girls kind of got caught up in that and were playing some balls without any purpose,’ UD coach John Topper said. “We just tried to remind them that they needed to communicate with each other.’

The Cardinals, by their own admission, weren’t quite ready for it.

“I think we kind of underestimated the game at first,’ senior outside back Erin Rusell said. “In the end, we just wanted it more, and Topper told us to get a little more physical.’

Springfield’s Caroline Pape was a menace through the first 25 minutes. With the Upper Dublin back line drifting higher and higher up the pitch, Pape was able to use her speed to get into a handful of runs right at the UD net.

But each time, Cardinal keeper Alisaa Klammer was there to stonewall the run. Klammer, who made six saves, likely saved the game for Upper Dublin with her play in the first half.

“You can’t say enough about what she did tonight,’ Topper said. “We had some weak moments in the back and she pulled us out of the fire a couple times. That’s what it takes to get the W on a night like this.’

Yet it was the hosts who scored first. Upper Dublin couldn’t clear a ball in the box, where it bounced around off a few players before Jewell Ringgold headed it to Cameron Callahan. Callahan was able to turn and fire it past Klammer as the home supporters erupted.

Upper Dublin seemed dazed following the goal, but the Cardinals started to find their footing again. Junior Olivia Ness, who started at outside back before coming off, returned as a forward.

Ness is more of a natural forward, and her speed plays a nice foil to senior Julie Cross’ more technical-based game. As time dwindled in the first half, Ness pounced.

“We’ve used her in the back this year because she’s just got tremendous speed,’ Topper said. “She’s turned into a good back, but we have every intention of using her up top as well. Once you bring someone with speed like that on up top, it really gives the defense something to think about.

“It wasn’t the prettiest play, but it worked out for us.’

A misread ball by the Spartan defense allowed Ness to pick up the free ball and take off on goal, two defenders converging behind her. They caught up as Ness got in the box, feet got tangled and Ness fell, drawing a penalty kick.

“I knew both girls were coming in, but I was more focused on if I could keep the ball in front of me and if I could get a good shot off,’ Ness said. “It just so happened, there was an accidental, or not accidental, trip that resulted in my teammate Paige getting the PK for us.’

Up stepped sophomore Paige Lawton. The midfielder drove the ball low and hard inside the left post and knotted the score with 1:07 left in the first half.

The Cardinals came out of the break flying. A fantastic buildup from Tovah Kaiser to Cross to Becca Watson to Tori Hoffner saw Hoffner push a header wide. Springfield was able to squeeze in a close-range shot by Katelyn Gillinger, but Klammer smothered it.

A few moments later, Alexis Schneider won a ball in the center of the park and played it up to Haber. Haber took a few touches then fired, a well-hit volley off the left side that curled far post and into the upper 90.

It was not a planned-out decision.

“I just kicked it,’ Haber said matter-of-factly.

What Upper Dublin didn’t do in the first half, it did in droves through the second. Russell and Haber attributed it to simply communicating better.

“We won headers and we talked more,’ Haber said. “By talking we were able to switch the field and that’s how most of our goals happen, by switching the field. After halftime, we decided to talk’

Russell, despite acknowledging her lack of size, left quite an imprint on the right side with her tenacious defending. On the left, sophomore back Shannon Haig did well shadowing Pape with center backs Kaiser and Devon Magarity providing cover.

“Topper always says ‘˜no turn,’ if they get the ball, you can’t let them get around you,’ Russell said. “We just had to mark tighter, that’s all we really did.’

Springfield came back, winning a pair of corners at 25:09 and 24:48. The second corner stayed in the box for a moment before getting cleared out to Spartan senior Bailey Krewson, who fired it back in on a bender that barely missed when it dipped just over the crossbar.

Callahn had another try inside saved by Klammer and Springfield got a couple of threatening runs in late. While the Spartans kept fighting, and got into the Upper Dublin box, the Cardinals’ defense was able to clear the ball out before a shot could be taken.

“We panicked at first, we weren’t expecting them to be as good as they were,’ Ness said. “After we talked it out in the second half, we realized we needed to calm down and start looking for our players instead of just blindly kicking the ball.’

After graduating 13 seniors last year, it looked like Upper Dublin would have a hard time competing for a second straight share of its division title.

“It feels amazing,’ Russell said. “Especially because it’s my senior year, it feels incredible.’

Even after an 0-2 start in non-league play, the Cards rallied around their seniors while the rest of the team found their places. It paid off, but they’re hoping it’s not the end.

“It feels fantastic,’ Ness said. “There was a period in our season where we weren’t seeing this one coming, but it’s so nice to get this reward at the end of the season.’

Springfield was seventh in the Class AA rankings, with the top seven making playoffs. The Spartans also hadn’t seen defeat until Thursday, and if they hold on, have the type of senior-laden team that often proves dangerous in the postseason.

Topper was optimistic his side would be able to find its way into the playoffs. The Cardinals were ranked 29th with the top 28 making the cut in the latest rankings released Oct. 6. But all they’ve done since then is win, and the coach knows if they can just get in, anything could happen.

“You certainly can’t play well for 80 minutes of every game during the year and I don’t think our first 40 was very well played,’ Topper said. “But I think they showed their maturity in the second half, settled down and did the things they needed to do to kill the game off. I was proud of them tonight.’

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