Pennridge advances past rival Souderton in District 1-AAA 1st round

EAST ROCKHILL >> Speedy junior forward Kennedy Peace scored with just 1 minute and 32 seconds left in a well-played first half Tuesday night, providing Pennridge a 1-0 lead over rival Souderton Area.

The Rams would control the ball the majority of the second half, took advantage of an own goal to provide breathing room and a score by Erin Stevenson to ice it, and a spirited home crowd provided even more flavor as eighth-seeded Pennridge went on to a 3-0 victory over No. 25 Souderton in a District One Class AAA First-Round Game at Helman Field.

The Rams will be back at home Thursday for Round Two, against the winner of the (9) Downingtown East and (24) Central Bucks South matchup.

With the Rams pushing the ball up, Rachel Velez crossed the ball over from a tough angle and Peace buried it, beating Souderton keeper Vivian Feliciani for the first goal of the contest.

“It’s one of the things we work on in practice all the time – to be there, to be able to finish a ball like that,” Peace said. “My first idea was to get some part of my body on this ball to get it in the goal.

“I think it was a confidence booster for everyone, including myself. So I think that definitely helped going into halftime, giving us some confidence for the second half.”

The play climaxed 20 minutes of tense, back-and-forth play on the turf at Helman.

Feliciani came out to make a sliding save with 21 minutes to go in the first half, securing a loose ball just before an onrushing Kouri Peace of Pennridge could get to it.

Moments later, Souderton put on pressure at the other end, a cross from Hannah Cross nearly finding the foot of Tori Dowd, but the Ram defense was able to knock it out of the box.

After both teams generated a few more scoring opportunities, Kennedy Peace’s goal provided the 1-0 lead at the break for Pennridge.

“It was very big,” Rams coach Audrey Anderson said of the tally. “We needed that, because I think when we go into the second half without a goal, we start to panic. It was good to get that before halftime just so we could relax a little bit and focus on what we needed to do.

“It feels good (to advance). Last year, we didn’t make it to Round Two, so this is huge for us. I think our midfield is doing a great job of winning the 50-50 balls, I’m able to move some people around and get some different people in there that bring a different part to the game, and they find our forwards very quickly.”

Pennridge immediately got a corner early in the second half and had a chance of doubling its lead, but Feliciani was able to reach up and make the save in a crowd, keeping it a one-score contest.

With constant pressure from the Rams early in the second half, an own goal by Souderton made it 2-0 with 31:54 to go.

Pennridge continued to control play, and a well-placed corner by Dani Meenan was knocked in by Stevenson with 17:16 remaining.

Rams keeper Kaitlyn Moran, making some key saves to keep it 0-0 in the first half, earned the shutout in net.

Big Red, a young team on the rise, left Helman feeling that its best soccer is ahead.

“It was a great first half – very even,” Souderton coach Chris Felber said. “I was thinking we can’t leave their strikers open, and in that one moment right before the half – they have so much speed and they’re so dynamic, it’s so hard to stop them.

“But we played great. We still felt positive at halftime. We’ve had a great year. We improved our record against almost every single team we played. That was huge for us. The program’s in the right place, we’re going the right way, and most of this team comes back.”

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