Belief, togetherness fueling Souderton’s season

SOUDERTON >> Take a quick glance at the Souderton girls soccer roster and it appears not much has changed from last year.
Then take a look at the SOL Continental standings and it becomes apparent plenty has changed. While the faces and names are pretty much the same, plus and minus a few, the Indians wrapped up the first half of conference play in a three-way tie for second place. With a 7-2-1 overall record, Souderton has the second best overall mark in the conference behind 9-0 CB East
With pretty much the same roster, second-year coach Chris Felber has Big Red eyeing the postseason and his girls believing they can do it.
“We came out with a stronger sense of family and a better connection as a team,” senior co-captain Kylie Heath said. “It is pretty much the same varsity team as last year with the exception of a few new players. We all wanted to do better, we all wanted to turn the program around and I think our desire is what started off the season differently.”
Last season, Souderton was known as a team that would play hard and defend well for 80 minutes, but ultimately didn’t have the offensive firepower to stick with some of the conference heavyweights. In the Continental, where CB East, CB West, Pennridge and CB South lurk, goals are a necessity.
By the end of the season, Felber had little reason to doubt his team could be right in the mix with the perennial powers. In order to do so, he said his girls had to find a strong sense of self-confidence. They needed to believe they belonged on the same field and had just as much chance at a result as their opponents did.
“The main thing is knowing we can win,” senior co-captain Hannah Schmidt said. “Last year, we started off good through our first couple games but then we fell a little bit. Now, we started out really strong so we have the confidence and we know we can win so that means we’re competitive in every game we play.”
Souderton split a pair of preseason scrimmages, defeating District I qualifier Owen J. Roberts 2-0 and falling to last season’s district champ Pennsbury 1-0. The Indians then ripped off five straight wins to open the season, defeating PCL power Archbishop Ryan 2-1 on the road to start the season, then going to 2-0 with a 4-0 drubbing at Methacton.
Schmidt said the Methacton game was the moment where the entire team realized it had the build to accomplish what it wanted in a District I playoff berth.
“We were always ‘just Souderton,’ people thought they could beat us, we were going to be an easy game,” Heath said. “I think we wanted to change the way people thought about our program and we turned it around by saying we are a power and we aren’t going to get run all over.”
Schmidt said Felber has been influential with the way he promotes a team atmosphere and puts all of his support behind the players. In turn, that’s led to the players pushing each other and chasing a goal as a team rather than a group of individuals wearing the same colors.
Heath noted the group is much closer than it was last year and they’re all able to get along while also pushing each other in pursuit of the postseason. Schmidt added every player on the team has a “partner” that they exchange inspirational quotes, encouragement and other things in that vein with before every game. That way, every player is ready to go when they get to the field.
On top of the Ryan win, Big Red has also notched wins at West Chester Henderson and a home 1-0 win over Pennridge. They did suffer a setback in their last game, a 3-1 home loss to East where the team lost its identity in the first half, but cameback to push the Patriots for 80 minutes.
Opponents are taking note of Souderton’s rise as well.
“They’re listening to their coach,” East coach Paul Eisold said. “Chris has done a terrific job teaching them with patience. His goal is to make them better and they’re getting better with every game.”
Souderton’s start still slipped under the radar until the Pennridge game turned some heads. Even so, Felber said his team has done well without any attention and hasn’t needed it. He wants his players to believe it’s their work and dedication that’s pushed the team to this start, not any kind of external factors.
Souderton has six seniors, with most of them playing in the back to anchor the Big Red defense. Heath said last year the goal was still to try and contend for playoffs, but it was more of a statement where this year, every player has seen it is a feasible goal.
“Our JV is very strong so we if start things off by going to playoffs before we leave, we’re leaving a level for them to step up to next year,” Heath said. “I think they can achieve it too.”
The first rendition of the District I power rankings, for games through Sept. 27, had Souderton in the top five. For a team not used to paying attention to the rankings later in the season, has it been tough not looking at them?
“I never see them until Felber tells us,” Schmidt said.
“Since we’re new to being successful, it’s a pleasant surprise where we are and it’s just an ego booster,” Heath added.
Of course, Souderton still has to survive the second round of conference games but the players know their goals haven’t been met yet. Felber noted two things that will be pivotal to his team keeping up its high level of play.
Firstly, the Indians will be down to just two games per week after this weekend, when they have their last out of conference game at Abington on Saturday. Schmidt felt a big key would be staying healthy, as last year’s team had a lot of injury woes, so lessening the game load will help with that.
Secondly, Souderton will just have to look at the next game in front of them. It’s been their thing all season long and it’s even more important as each game takes on more importance.
“Our main goal is to win one game at a time,” Schmidt said. “Now that we have two games per week, we have to stay healthy and give it our all even at the end because we dropped off last year. That’s the key, stay strong.”

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