Groeber sets up Pennridge for win over Lansdale Catholic

EAST ROCKHILL >> Audrey Anderson didn’t like what she was seeing.

About midway through the first half of Pennridge’s non-league girls soccer match against Lansdale Catholic, Anderson pulled midfielder Ashley Groeber off for a talk. Anderson felt that Groeber, a junior who recently gave a verbal commitment to St. Joe’s, wasn’t playing up to standard.

Groeber got the message and after halftime, took over the game.

“Coach Aud decided to talk to me and told me ‘you need to get more shots off,’” Groeber said. “After that, honestly, every time I got the ball I looked for an opportunity to shoot or take some players on. I ended up getting three assists from the work that I put in.”

Abby Groff scored for the third straight game and Groeber assisted the next three goals as Pennridge topped the Crusaders 4-0 on Friday afternoon at Helman Field.

Groeber’s neon green headband is impossible to miss on the field yet the midfielder was almost invisible in the first half, as were most of the Rams (5-0-1, 4-0-1 Suburban One League Continental) in the attacking sense. Groff had a shot in the first 70 seconds of the match palmed away by LC keeper Abby Shuster, but Pennridge was otherwise passive for most of the opening 40 minutes.

When Anderson pulled the midfielder, she told Groeber is was time for her to be a dominant presence on the pitch.

“She should be,” Anderson said. “She’s been a varsity player since her freshman year and we have high hopes for her. She was showing her feet a lot, she’s crafty with the ball at her feet, she can dribble in tight spaces, she can cross the ball, she can shoot the ball and she has a great vision of the field. It was her understanding what the team needed from her and what the coaches wanted from her.”

Groff, who scored overtime goals to give Pennridge wins over Souderton and Central Bucks West in its last two matches, put the team on the board with 4:40 to go in the opening half. The junior got up over an LC defender and headed in Caroline Thomson’s corner kick.

The Rams have struggled scoring goals in bunches so far this season, so they spent the last two days training on finishing and keeping calm in front of goal. Thomson, a senior center mid and Xavier recruit, felt getting a goal like that woke up the rest of the team.

“The energy level came up after halftime and we really started preaching what we’ve been practicing,” Thomson said. “It gave us so much energy, we’ve been practicing corner kicks and practicing set pieces and to get one in, it was a team effort, everyone went and competed for that ball.”

Pennridge was a bit fortunate that it was a 1-0 game in their favor at the half. LC senior forward Kate Henesey, a Bucknell recruit, won her share of battles against Pennridge’s back line and had three shots saved in a 16-minute span in the first half.

The first was the most dangerous as the striker got up and headed down a corner kick toward the inside of the near post, requiring a fantastic diving save by Rams keeper Mary Kate Levush in the eighth minute. With about 16:30 left in the half, Henesey powered through three players to get into the box and fire off a shot. Although it went right to Levush, it still left the Rams’ bench marveling a bit.

“We knew about Kate and we knew about some of their other players and the biggest mistake a team came make is not respecting a player,” Anderson said. “Courtney (Supp), Sarah (Williams), Maddie Angelo and Molly Groff, they did a great job of not giving her too much. We organized after halftime and said we’re not going to let her dribble if we win the ball before she does.”

The score doesn’t say it, but the Crusaders (7-3-1, 4-0-1 Philadelphia Catholic League) hung tough all match. LC played physical, won plenty of balls in the air and on the ground and forced Pennridge to really buckle down and work.

Luckily for Pennridge, Groeber was ready to assume control. Five minutes into the second half, she played a ball out of the box to sophomore Chance Hendricks, who struck it back in from well outside the box and looped over the keeper for a 2-0 lead.

Pennridge’s third goal came when Groeber brough the ball into the box, then sprayed it out to Meghan Kriney on the left side. Kriney trapped it, took a touch then knocked the ball inside the near post with 23:25 left on the clock.

“We felt like we were defending the whole time in the first half, so we decided to connect to feet because we figured if we could do that, we could get our rhythm back in the game and start scoring some goals,” Groeber said.

“We’re still gelling together because we’re mostly a brand-new team,” Thomson added. “Once we get to know each other as players, we’re going to start connecting and start getting goals.”

With just 50 seconds left, Pennridge put one more away after Groeber got past the LC backline. Keeper Lauren Crim was able to stuff her shot, but the ball squirmed away, where a trailing Lauren Plezia was able to rip it into the net, giving Groeber the hat-trick of helpers.

“We’re getting better,” Thomson said. “In the beginning, we were a little shaky but as soon as we started connecting and knowing what people like and don’t like, we’re coming together.”

“In practice, we all work hard, we all do our part and that’s helping us come together too,” Groeber added.

Goals: P – Abby Groff (Caroline Thomson), Chance Hendricks (Ashley Groeber), Meghan Kriney (Groeber), Lauren Plezia (Groeber). Shots: P – 14, LC – 5. Saves: LC – Abby Shuster/Lauren Crim 10, P – Mary Kate Levush/Meghan Kriney 5.

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