Pennridge’s midfield excels in win over Souderton

EAST ROCKHILL >> It was the kind of performance Pennridge girls soccer coach Audrey Anderson had been looking for out of her midfield.

From possession, connected passes, winning balls in the air and on the ground and consistent two-way work rate, the Rams had it all clicking Tuesday night. It was the kind of performance Anderson had been looking for and one she hopes becomes the constant from game to game.

A sound performance by the midfield and defense backed up three quality goals as the Rams defeated visiting Souderton 3-0 on Tuesday under the lights at Helman Field. Souderton played well despite the result, but couldn’t find any luck against Pennridge.

“They had two really fast girls up top, so we watched out for their long balls and we kept composed and came out strong,” Pennridge junior center midfielder Savanna Harrison said.

While a number of players rotated in and out of the middle of the field, it was Harrison, Katie Fischer and Melissa Lyon that set the tone early. Fischer in particular had a standout performance, winning nearly every air ball that came her way and coming up strong on tackles in the midfield.

In the event Fischer didn’t cleanly win a ball or created a 50/50 chance, her supporting mids were there to step in. Behind them, the back line turned in another strong show led by central defender Erin Stevenson, who took advantage of the officials’ willingness to let the players play to set a tone.

“We knew their pressure was going to be really hard on us because that’s how it was the last game with them,” Stevenson said. “We had to know where our players were before we got the ball and play fast.”

The Rams (9-3-2, 6-3-2 SOL Continental) struck gold with an early goal from Kouri Peace when the freshman was able to put enough on a chip that not even a deflection by Souderton’s keeper could keep it out of the net. With an early lead, the Rams could ramp it up with their defensive pressure, something Souderton coach Chris Felber thought led to Pennridge’s goals.

The Rams’ second goal, which came with 11:13 left in the first half, came after a build-up along the left flank that was as flashy as it was effective. After fullback Dani Meenan picked off a pass, she slipped it to Ashley Groeber, who sidestepped away from a defender, carried the ball up and slid it to Lyon again just missing a Big Red defender.
Lyon fed it to Liz Cardie, who kept her composure against the onrushing keeper and slotted it home.

“They’re strong all over the place and their front seven players are just so hard to get by,” Felber said. “Everytime we did get by them, I felt like we could cause problems but it didn’t quite happen. In preseason we said this is the toughest fixture on the calendar, coming here and playing these guys is always going to be the hardest game.”

Souderton’s defense was solid, led by Kylie Heath, Hannah Schmidt and Sara Cassel, but they just couldn’t seem to break through up the middle of the field. Big Red’s most potent offensive player was its newest in freshman Allie Trick, a recent call-up from JV.

Felber said his attack in general is quite young and his decision to add Trick was due to the freshman’s willingness to listen to coaches and provide some goals and assists alongside her physical play. Trick brought a fiesty edge to the Indians attack and her battle with Stevenson was a highlight throughout the game.

“Erin, she’s a special, special player,” Anderson said. “We’ll joke around because she’ll do the most difficult thing and we’ll say it’s because she likes the challenge. (Trick) was a good little player and good for her being a freshman and playing against Erin, who’s one of the best defenders and one of the best players in the conference. For her to not back down from Erin I thought was great and great for Erin to come off a long weekend of soccer and come here to give 80 good minutes.”

“I always like playing aggressive,” Stevenson said. “I like when the refs will let us play., it makes the game more intense.”

Souderton (8-5-1, 5-5-1) entered the game on a bit of a rough patch, coming off an overtime loss to Quakertown last week but Felber didn’t want to call it a slump. He did concede his team has to get back to scoring goals but felt Big Red has been more unlucky than anything recently.

“I think we’ll get there and I think we’ll come out of it,” Felber said. “We’re always going to hit a dip, especially in this division. We’re going to start coming out of it, I’ve felt the performances have been there, the goals just haven’t been there.”

Souderton is still in solid standing for a District 1 playoff bid while the Rams are looking to pick up a top-5 seed. What’s encouraging for Pennridge is that it seems to be hitting stride as the regular season comes to a close. Even with some regulars limited or dealing with fatigue and a few bumps and bruises, the Rams were solid as a whole on Tuesday.

Much of that radiated from the middle where Fischer, who played most of the game, was firmly in control. Her pink cleats seemed drawn to the ball across the midfield as she channeled the rest of the unit around her.

Fittingly for such a strong performance, the junior landed the team’s final goal on a high-caliber turn and finish inside the box with Felber noting its quality after the game.

“She’s a huge target,” Harrison said. “It’s easy to find her head and she can hold onto the ball. She’s just a strong player.”

Last year, Fischer had Jess Supp providing support but with Supp now at Bloomsburg, the Rams have been working to find a midfield core that worked. It appears that Harrison has risen into that role, making her share of tackles against Souderton while also filling out the rest of the work like marking back and getting into second balls.

Harrison said the win was reassuring for the Rams and should be a boost for them approaching playoffs.

“She was very comfortable winning those balls today,” Anderson said. “Sometimes I think she second-guesses herself a little too much and is afraid to make a mistake. She did a great job, if Katie didn’t get, it Savanna was there.”

If they can keep that up, the Rams could be looking at an extended postseason stay.

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