Senior Carabba’s strike sends Abington past William Tennent in OT

ABINGTON >> There’s plenty of words to describe this year’s Abington girls soccer team.

Surprising would be the first on many lists. Overachieving, maybe, depending who was asked. Overlooked, but that’s getting harder to say and actually mean it. But there’s one word that can not be disputed when describing this Galloping Ghosts team.


Figure that the Ghosts lost four starters before they even got through the preseason. Take into account almost every player is taking the field with some kind of injury knowing there’s not enough depth behind them to give them a break. Then, top it off with the fact they’re playing games where every outcome means something to them. For the first time in a long time, Abington is thinking playoffs.

“In a word, no,” Ghosts coach Rick Thompkins said when asked if he expected to be playing a meaningful game in mid-October. “I felt snakebitten. The way these seasons work, with the number of games you play in a short amount of time, depth is important. It’s bad enough not having them, but now I have kids that can’t get a break and might not be injured if they had.”

Abington showed its toughness again Thursday night, gutting out a 3-2 over win over William Tennent on the Ghosts’ senior night. Fittingly, it was the seniors leading the way with Sophia Carabba providing the winner on a brilliant strike with 6:50 left in the first extra period.

The two teams had tied 2-2 in their prior meeting and it looked like the game was heading there again thanks to some heroics from both sides. Seniors Marissa Heath, Toni Washington and Kathryn Gerhard were terrific leading Abington’s defensive effort while seniors Maddie Doyle and Julia Guarini put in yeoman’s shifts in the midfield.

“We just have such good chemistry this year,” Gerhard said. “It’s such a team effort.”

“We’re friends, we’re so close and when we huddle, we really try to encourage each other,” Carabba said. “We have an awesome team of great players.”

Tennent struck first on a great strike by Shannon McQuinn with 10:30 left in the first half, a one-timer off a cross from Lynne O’Connor. The Ghosts struck back five minutes later when a toe-poke by Kailey Horton sprung Guarini on a breakaway and the senior finished with poise.

Guarini was tremendous throughout the game, her speed and hard running causing Tennent fits. She also had a foot in all three Ghost goals, setting up the other two after scoring herself. Sure, it was Senior Night, but Guarini truly imposed her will on the game.

“We definitely knew we had it in us as a team,” Guarini said. “Our younger players have been stepping up and really helping out. Every game we just tell everyone to keep their head in the game and we have everyone mentally prepare themselves for the first touch, where they’re passing to and winning 50/50 balls.”

While not the biggest player, Guarini and midfield partner Doyle embody the Ghosts’ collective toughness.

Thompkins said Doyle has been playing through injuries all season and the senior proved it again Thursday, taking a couple of big hits and getting right back after it.

Guarini helped put the Ghosts ahead with 13:36 left when she slipped a ball up to Isabella Bautista, who then ripped a laser across goal to the far post for the go-ahead strike. That it was Guarini with the vision to see that play didn’t surprise her coach.

“It’s all season, just not tonight,” Thompkins said. “She and Camryn (Lexow) are difference-makers. They have a little different skill set than some of the other girls. On the offensive side, they take care of business while Maddie Doyle and Toni (Washington) solidify the defensive side.”

Abington’s goal came after a string of terrific plays by Tennent keeper Lauriel Krouse. The junior made a dramatic double-save to hold the tie with Abington players swarming around her then a few minutes later, made a great read to knock down a dangerous cross by Heath.
Doyle had almost broken the deadlock shortly after, but her header off a Lexow corner kick hit the wrong part of the post and went back into play.

Abington was 25 ticks away from a win when Tennent won a free kick in the Ghosts’ half. Brianna Broccardi sent the ball in to a hornet’s nest inside the 18 where somehow, Panthers senior Emily Wasserlieben was able to knock it in with four seconds left to knot things up.

It was another trying moment for a team in a season full of them. But the talk before overtime was overwhelmingly positive.

“We have a really strong defensive line so all together, we have confidence back there,” Gerhard said.

In a play that was quite similar to the one Bautista scored on, Guarini slipped a ball out to Carabba and the senior put a gorgeous strike onto the ball, ripping it home for the win.

“Julia Guarini, she did most of the hard work,” Carabba said. “She laid it off to me and I just put it in. On the outside, I usually cross it and it went in. Julia, in our pep talk, she told us to keep our eye on the ball and what kind of shot to shoot and that’s what I did.”

“We’re really good on the outside and earlier in our season we had a couple of goals from there,” Guarini said. “We’ve definitely been utilizing that.”

With three games left, Thompkins wasn’t ready to say his team is a playoff lock, but it’s looking more and more likely the Ghosts will qualify for the first time in his six-year tenure. They’re already reached 10 wins and despite everything, have been playing with confidence and toughness since the first game, a win over Central Bucks West that showed the entire team something special might be in the making.

“We want it,” Carabba said. “Our team is strong, especially our seniors who have been here for four years, we all want it and we’re pushing through for it.”

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