Forwards’ pressure helps Pennridge defeat Wissahickon

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Wissahickon's Kirsten Haney clears the ball past Pennridge's Ashley Groeber and Savanna Harrison Oct. 5, 2015.
Bob Raines–Montgomery Media Wissahickon’s Kirsten Haney clears the ball past Pennridge’s Ashley Groeber and Katie Fischer Oct. 5, 2015.

AMBLER >> If there’s one thing the Pennridge girls’ soccer team’s stable of forwards enjoy almost as much as scoring goals, it’s the ball on the foot of an opposing defender.
See, the Rams are an opportunistic and committed group, always lurking around the back line waiting to pounce. Regardless of the situation, if there’s a chance to put pressure on the ball, they’re going to take it. Often, that pressure leads to a mistake or a rushed clearance or anything that doesn’t aid the defense.
That in turn, often leads to plenty of goals.
“After the (CB) East game, one of our biggest things was pressuring the defense,” Pennridge junior forward Kennedy Peace said. “Then, we don’t have to restart from the back and we can keep it in their half and work from there. It was a big thing coming in here for all the forwards.”
With Peace leading the charge, Pennridge put plenty of pressure on host Wissahickon and it led to a 6-1 victory. The Rams put 18 shots on net to go with 11 corner kicks as they made a living in Wissahickon’s half.
Junior midfielder Katie Fischer put away two goals when outside back Dani Meenan had a goal and two assists and central defender Rachel Velez chipped in a goal and assist. Peace had the game’s opening goal and her pressure led to numerous opportunities for the Rams.
While Wissahickon (6-3-1, 6-1-1 SOL American) was on the defensive for much of the game, the Trojans did move the ball around. Dynamic midfielder Maddie Elwell was still a handful for Pennridge (7-3-1, 4-3-1 SOL Continental), though Wissahickon couldn’t quite create the same chances as its opponent.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Pennridge's Melissa Lynn drives for the goal past Wissahickon Jasmine Bishop Oct. 5, 2015.
Bob Raines–Montgomery Media Pennridge’s Melissa Lynn drives for the goal past Wissahickon Jasmine Bishop Oct. 5, 2015.

“I think just playing against a higher-level team really helps us gear up for playoffs or just become a better team as a whole,” Elwell, a Vanderbilt recruit, said. “Our conference it’s always competitive so learning from the better conference’s team or other better teams just helps our game.”
While they play in the SOL Continental and face the likes of CB East, CB South, CB West and this year, Souderton, the Rams always look at their game with Wissahickon as a test. Peace said it’s been a tough game in her time at Pennridge and it made their effort to pressure the ball doubly important.
The junior created the first two near chances for the Rams before she put her side on the board. A ball from senior Jess Milligan set Peace up to slot a ball across the turf to the far post about 10 minutes into the game.
“We always struggle with WIssahickon so our goal this game was to pressure up high and connect,” Rams coach Audrey Anderson said. “I think we did it really well and (Wissahickon) was good at moving the ball. They’re quick in transition. It was a good game but I was very happy with how we play as a whole.”
Peace noted the forwards pressuring the ball is also a way of playing defense as a team. If the opposing back line can’t move the ball where it wants to or has to resort to clears instead of connecting passes, it eases the stress on Pennridge’s midfield and defense.
While every run at a defender or ball in space doesn’t always lead to a shot, the Rams will just as gladly take a corner kick or other set piece deep in the opposing end.
“If I’m down there and they have a few defenders back, I know if I can get a corner, we can get people in and we have the personnel that can finish it most of the time,” Peace said. “That’s something we’re always looking for too.”
The Rams’ second goal came off a corner when Meenan played a great ball into the area where Velez met it and put it home. Velez, who also had her hands full helping the back line try to contain Elwell, had an assist after Melissa Lyon forced a turnover then got the ball back from the defender to make it 3-0 with six minutes left in the first half.
Nearly every time Elwell got on the ball, the junior was able to get where she wanted on the pitch, but Pennridge did well to take away her support options. Still, the midfielder seemed optimistic about some things her team did while leaving an impression on the opposition.
“It took our entire team to slow her down,” Anderson said. “She’s a stud. I enjoyed watching her play.”
“What was working for us was the diagonal ball and getting the ball and looking up quickly,” Elwell said. “Sometimes we took too many touches on the ball because again, the pace of our conference is slower and we just need to know to take a touch and look up as soon as we get the ball.”
Peace’s younger sister Kouri started the second half the way her sister started the first, creating a few chances and putting pressure on Wissahickon with her speed. The younger Peace’s work led her to an assist when she set up Fischer five minutes into the half.
Fischer struck a class finish, volleying the ball to the upper 90 on the far post, tucking the ball just under the ball, an ball that could not be saved.
“Audrey always talks about creating a program and everyone needs to be able to contribute,” Kennedy Peace said. “Especially with goals, so when you’re double team or triple teamed, you know someone else can get that job done.”
Wissahickon answered back quickly after Elwell made a terrific run down the the left flank to the endline and fired a cross back into the box. While the Rams cleared the cross out, it went to Rachel Coleman who powerfully volleyed it back and into the net.
Fischer had the next goal, this time nodding in another well-placed ball by Meenan on the far post. The fullback wrapped the scoring with 12.1 remaining when she sent in a parabola of a shot off a clearance that bent in.
Peace said the win should be a confidence booster for everyone, but the Rams have also seen this season they don’t have to be at top of the table or play a perfect game to sill be successful.
On the other side, Wissahickon has a huge game with Upper Dublin looming in the SOL American and the Trojans are looking to return to districts. Seeing what kind of teams await them should only be of benefit to them going forward.
“We should go into every game like it’s a Pennridge-type of team,” Elwell said. “We need to go in every practice like we’re practicing for a game like this so we can get that sense of urgency together.”

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