EAST ROCKHILL >> Put the girls soccer teams of Souderton and Pennridge on a pitch anywhere and it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll play a superb match.
The latest chapter of the intense, but respect-filled, rivalry took place Tuesday night at Pennridge, with the Rams hosting their Community Night as the teams met for the first time since they played for the PIAA 4A title last November. While the rosters have changed greatly from that frigid night, the effort on the field did not.
At the end, thanks to a determined goal by Emily Kriney, Pennridge kept its unbeaten start intact with a 1-0 win over the Indians in another classic.
“Going into it, we were all kind of thinking about last year but once game day got here we realized we couldn’t think like that anymore,” Pennridge senior defender and co-captain Lauren McIntyre said. “It’s all new players on both teams, it’s a new season, so we had to put that behind us.”
McIntyre was busy on Tuesday as she and the rest of the Rams defenders focused on quieting a Souderton attack that’s shown a lot of potency so far this fall. The senior spent a lot of time keeping Souderton junior Averie Doughty, the state playoff hero last year, in check while fellow backs Ashley Gordon, Maddie Angelo and Zoe Sabol also had to keep the rest of the Indians’ front line under wraps.
Of course, the same rang true of Souderton’s back line against Pennridge’s quick-moving attack. Anchored by a sterling effort from goalkeeper Morgan Molyneaux, the Indians back line of center backs Darby Kramer and Payton Carroll and fullbacks Grace Kelley and Ella Kregel tried to keep the Rams from causing damage in the 18-yard box.
“They were fantastic today, they really worked hard,” Souderton coach Lindsy Jones said. “Essentially, it came down to making sure our marks were clear. They’re very good at moving around offensively to confuse defenders so we kept pressing to keep our marks to get the ball cleared. They looked organized, they were winning balls in the air and clearing it well.”
Early on, the Rams (6-0-0, 4-0-0 SOL Continental) saw they had plenty of room in the midfield, so the trio of Maddie Anderson, Chance Hendricks and Grace Myers took it. Hendricks turned in a terrific effort for Pennridge, never leaving the field and creating some of the Rams best scoring efforts outside of the actual goal.
In matchups like Tuesday’s where the teams know each other that well, success comes from taking what’s there. If it meant the midfielders were going to be a focal point, then the Rams could make that work.
“They’re always tough everywhere on the field but we found we had a lot of space in the midfield and it opened up shots for us,” Hendricks said. “We went into the second half saying if they changed their gameplan, it would open up outlets for our forwards. I think our intensity was even higher, which helped us push forward.”
It didn’t mean they were going to score a ton of goals. Molyneaux was outstanding in making 10 saves, her best coming about midway through the second half when she palmed a screamer by Hendricks off the crossbar and another in the dying seconds of the first half when she denied Abby Brown’s follow-up after Hendricks had hit the post on a shot.
No play better summed up Souderton’s effort than the daring recovery run Kramer made in the final few minutes. Anderson played a great ball to spring Leah Malone and as the forward went in along against Molyneaux, Kramer sprinted in to kick the ball out for a corner to break up the one-v-one.
Even losing so many pieces, the Indians (6-2-0, 3-2-0) have come out strong to start 2019.
“We had a strong group that did come back and we’re still working on some positions but we’ve scored more goals than we did last year,” Jones said. “We’ve been really happy with the start this season. It starts with our defense, I always think that’s the No. 1 thing and we have a strong crew in the back.”
Pennridge hasn’t lost yet this season, but they’ve been plenty tested every time out. The team’s veterans know every team lining up against them is going to give the Rams their best shot, but that only makes the Pennridge players up their level on a constant basis.
“We’re kind of used to it, it’s always everyone against Pennridge,” McIntyre said. “We come into every game like it’s ours and we have to come out with the win.”
Even with luck seemingly not on their side and an in-form goalkeeper denying them time and time again, the Rams’ confidence didn’t wane even as the match wound into its final act.
“We could definitely feel it,” Hendricks said. “We had so many opportunities, so many shots. It doesn’t matter who is scoring, as long as we’re putting it in the back of the net. That’s what we were really looking for and we even knew at halftime it was coming.”
Malone was able to get the endline and whipped a good cross back across the box, which somehow found its way to the far post. Making a hard-charging run, Emily Kriney was able to punch it home and although the Rams were denied a second, they were able to claim the three points at stake.
“We’re a really hard-working team, it’s how we’ve been as long as I can remember and even watching as a little kid,” Hendricks said. “That’s what we want to continue on and I think it’s even better we got a hard-working goal like that.”
PENNRIDGE 1, SOUDERTON 0
SOUDERTON 0 0 – 0
PENNRIDGE 0 1 – 1
Goals: P – Emily Kriney (Leah Malone)
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