Methacton stifles North Penn in District 1-AAA opener

WORCESTER >> Last season, Methacton entered the District 1-AAA field hockey playoffs as a high seed, then promptly exited in the first round.

This time, the Warriors again earned a home game as the No. 7 seed and a date with No. 26 North Penn. With all but three starters back from last year’s squad, Methacton was ready this time.

A very resolute defensive effort was more than enough to propel the Warriors past the Maidens, 3-0 Monday afternoon. Olivia Hoover scored twice for the hosts while senior goalie Sarah Park and back Julia Dickinson helped stymie North Penn’s offense.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media North Penn's Sophie Kim reaches to block a shot by Methacton's Emily Owens on goel keeper Brynne Schoppe Oct. 2, 2015.
North Penn’s Sophie Kim reaches to block a shot by Methacton’s Emily Owens on Maidens goalkeeper Brynne Schoppe during their District 1-AAA first round game on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. (Bob Raines Montgomery Media)

“We were working better as a team,” Methacton coach Sarah Quintois said. “We were supporting each other and backing each other up. Even our forwards were coming back to the ball and helping defensively in the midfield. It was a good overall team effort.”

North Penn never seemed able to get into an offensive rhythm. Part of that fell on Methacton, which identified the Maidens’ main threats and avenues of attack and part of it was on North Penn. The Maidens didn’t play with the kind of pace that could have put Methacton on its heels.

The best offensive chances North Penn generated came mostly as individual efforts. Forwards Brianna O’Donnell and Mikayla Barrow had a few nice runs each, but couldn’t get the last move or found themselves lacking support.

“We had trouble generating offense today,” North Penn coach Shannon McCracken said. “We had trouble with the transition from defense to attack so we weren’t generating a lot of offense.

“We did not get into a rhythm today. (Methacton)’s a talented team, a solid team, they keep their sticks down and we couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

North Penn’s defense did play well despite having to make some adjustments due to injury. Rachel Fisher filled in at left back and Sophie Kim moved over to play center back but the patchwork unit made Methacton work.

The hosts struck first a little more than halfway through the opening period. Midfielder Sara Sterchak took a corner insert and found Hoover at the top of the circle. The sophomore attacker didn’t waste the chance, putting her team up to a needed lead with 17:50 left in the half.

“We lost in the first round as a higher-seeded team so that was a wake-up call for us that any team can win,” Quintois said. “You can’t take anything for granted because you’re seeded high, we know North Penn is a good team. That gave us a little bit of confidence to keep going.”

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media North Penn's Karli Marger hits up field past Methacton's Olivia Hoover Oct. 2, 2015.
North Penn’s Karli Marger hits up field past Methacton’s Olivia Hoover during their District 1-AAA first round game on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

Roughly three-and-a-half minutes later, Hoover added to her team’s lead on a penalty stroke. A mass of bodies met in the box as both teams battled for the ball and the call went the Warriors’ way with Hoover firing the shot in under the crossbar.

“She’s good at coming back to the ball and her stick handling skills are very good,” Quintois said. “She knows how to maneuver. She’s always working hard not only to create opportunities for herself, but she’s really a team player.”

Quintois said North Penn is the type of team that tends to really battle back, so adding a second goal so quickly was quite helpful. North Penn also didn’t relent in its pressure, which kept Methacton on its toes through the second half.

Methacton sealed the game up with a second penalty stroke goal with 5:42 remaining. Senior midfielder Maddie Alderfer did the honors, putting the shot home after another foul inside the circle.

The loss ended the season for a North Penn team that had made a late surge into the playoffs. The air Monday was one of frustration and disappointment that the Maidens couldn’t find that same spark that had gotten them this far.

“It’s always frustrating when you come out a little bit flat for a playoff game,” McCracken said. “The girls fought hard all season, they had a great season and I’m real proud of them.”

Methacton advances to face the winner of No. 10 Plymouth-Whitemarsh and No. 23 Lower Merion on Wednesday.

“We have a strong senior class, eight seniors are starters,” Quintois said. “They really want this, they’re trying not to look too far ahead but they want to win one game at a time.”

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