Hard-working Groff lifts Pennridge past Souderton in OT

EAST ROCKHILL >> Abby Groff was due.

The Pennridge junior winger/striker had been playing excellent to start the season, but she hadn’t scored since the team’s season-opening win. Groff had put in more than enough work to earn another, she just couldn’t seem to find it.

Her time came Thursday night, and it couldn’t have been more opportune.

“It’s about time,” a relieved Groff said. “It’s not just for myself, the entire team has been working hard so finally getting a goal is a good feeling.”

Groff scored with 8:03 left in the first overtime to lift Pennridge past Souderton 1-0 in a high-level match between two quality Suburban One League Continental Conference sides. Pennridge won, but it needed a miracle save from Mary Kate Levush in the last half-minute of regulation to do it.

Both teams just finished a grueling slate of games against Central Bucks South, Central Bucks East and each other and both have plenty to like about how they’ve been playing. Souderton, with its veteran and potent attack, left Helman Field feeling as though it left points on the table.

“I thought we had the game the whole second half,” Indians coach Chris Felber said. “The first half was 50-50, the second half, I thought we scored. I saw it hit the net, so I think we got robbed of a win. We just couldn’t make it happen.”

The play in question came with about 25 minutes left in the second half. Levush had bobbled a ball in the 18-yard box, leaving her scrambling back to the net as Souderton fullback Campbell Power hit a shot off the left side.

The ball hit the crossbar and Levush managed to get a hand on it to palm it away.

“I bobbled the ball and had to get back in, I saw the flight of the ball and I touched it just to get a hand on it, otherwise I knew it was going in,” Levush said. “I had to do anything I could, I touched it, thankfully it hit the crossbar and my defense was able to clear it out.”

Outside of that, Felber had no complaints about how his team performed. The Indians (2-2-0, 1-2-0 conference) are strong up front, returning most of last season’s top offensive players like Cara McCausland, Allie Trick and Tori Down and a strong midfield anchored by Bre Direnzi and Sara Readinger.

The defense is where Souderton is most new, but keeper Lindsey Pazdziorko made seven saves and the rest of the back line including Power, Hannah Croll and Kailee Harwick, dealt with Pennridge’s attack.

“I thought we were awesome tonight, this is such an incredibly hard place to win,” Felber said. “I am happy with the performance and if we continue to play like that, we’ll be in playoffs and win games.

“Our conference is incredibly hard, it’s one of the reasons I took the job. All the games are tough but the last time I came here, I said the same thing and this is what a high school soccer game should be, under the lights, the crowd’s intense, both teams playing really good soccer and both teams committed. I love playing Pennridge.”

With about 35 seconds left in the game, a breakdown in the back set Souderton’s Allie Trick in alone on goal with just Levush to beat. The junior keeper came off her line as Trick took her shot, the ball hitting the sprawling Levush, who got enough to keep it out of the net.

“I saw her coming straight out and I had the angle a little off,” Levush said. “She took a touch and I was able to get my legs out, I pretty much swung them out and was able to clear it wide.”

Levush, a part-time starter last season, has been an anchor for the Rams’ rebuilt back line along with senior co-captain Courtney Supp, a center back. The junior credited good communication with her backs as a reason for their fast success, with just one goal allowed in four games.

Likewish, Levush handed plenty of credit to her backup, sophomore Megan Kriney, for making practices competitive every day. Kriney also plays forward, a unique dynamic and because soccer is funny, had the assist on Groff’s winning goal.

“For me, it’s been staying wide and staying patient,” Groff said. “As a forward, you know you’re going to make those runs and not always get the ball. You can’t get down on yourself and you have to know your team is always behind you and working for you.”

Groff might have used the phrase “hard work” 12 times during her interview, extolling it as the most prevalent virtue among the numerous underclassmen the Rams are counting on this season. While Pennridge’s 3-0-1 record (2-0-1 SOL Continental) may be a surprise to some on the outside, it isn’t to the players in the program who see how much hard work goes into it every day.

Few have worked harder than Groff, which is why it seemed fitting she scored the winner. A simple through ball from Kriney got the junior behind the defense and her neatly-tucked shot inside the right post set off a celebration that saw the forward engulfed in a mob of screaming teammates.

“You don’t really need a band to be a captain, it’s sometimes about what you’re doing out there that have people look up to you and say ‘she’s going to get the job done,’” Pennridge coach Audrey Anderson said. “We have a lot of those girls, but Abby, she did not stop working this entire night. I was happy she worked the entire time. Hard work is who we are and we’re not afraid of it.”

PENNRIDGE 0 0 1 – 1
SOUDERTON 0 0 0 – 0
Goals: P–Abby Groff (Megan Kriney). Shots: P–8, S–5. Saves: P–Mary Kate Levush 5; S–Lindsey Pazdziorko 7.

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