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DeHaven’s finish the difference as Pennridge edges North Penn in PIAA 4A quarterfinals

ROYERSFORD >> As soon as the ball left her foot, Maddie Anderson knew she hadn’t hit it the way she wanted to.

While the Pennridge senior midfielder didn’t feel great about her service, it turned out to be hit exactly the right way. Anderson’s low driven free kick found a lane then met the foot of Lindsey DeHaven making a run toward goal where the forward was able to direct it home midway through the second half.

DeHaven’s tally would stand up as the lone goal as Pennridge defeated SOL Continental rival North Penn 1-0 in their PIAA 4A girls soccer quarterfinal Saturday at Spring-Ford in another tight duel between the teams.

“If I’m being honest, I didn’t try to put it on the ground, I actually mis-hit it,” Anderson said. “We made the run in and luckily Lindsey was there to finish it. We had one in earlier and didn’t finish it, but we all knew we just had to try again. I still went in our favor so I guess being able to read the ball and guess where it was going worked in our favor.”

“It was really congested in the back, so I was just going to make a forward run to confuse the defenders,” DeHaven said. “I thought she was going back post, it was still a great ball by her even if she mis-hit it, we’ll say she hit it on purpose and I was just able to get my toe on it. I think the goalie also thought it was going back post so I was able to slip in there and get it past her.”

Saturday was the fourth meeting of the season for the two teams, who had also played less than two weeks ago in the District 1 semifinals. While Pennridge went 3-1 against the Knights, all four games were decided by a single goal and North Penn remains the only team to have beaten the Rams this fall.

By the third meeting, the teams pretty much knew everything the other would do so anyone seeing it for the first time Saturday would be excused for thinking there were 22 psychics on the field.  Seemingly every move one side made was well-countered by the other and the Knights’ defense was able to read the Pennridge attack extremely well.

“It’s just the way we’ve been playing the last couple of weeks, we’ve come out, played hard, played really good team soccer, defended as a unit and tried to move forward as a unit,” Knights co-head coach Mike Rio said. “Pennridge is a great team with a lot of great players who do a lot of things really well and the fact we get out there and compete with them so well shows a lot of the quality of our team as well.”

Keeper Anna Fiore was really good at getting off her line to intercept crosses while senior center backs Casey Cavanaugh and Grace Sacchetti were able to neutralize the intersecting runs of the Rams’ front line.

“It comes from seeing them but our back line and Anna in general know how to keep their position, how to play and they read the game well,” Rio said. “They do a great job of anticipating those through balls and limiting the quality of chances they get from them. Defensively as a unit, we’ve been really strong and Grace and Casey have anchored us, so they’re going to be two people very hard to replace.”

Saturday’s match was physical, given the stakes on the line but while the officials were busy, it never escalated past two sides playing extra hard to try and continue their seasons.

Pennridge’s defense again had its hands full with North Penn’s attack. It took a combined effort from center backs Maddie Angelo and Lauren McIntyre to contain Emily Varilla although the North Penn sophomore was still able to put a few cracks on frame and drew plenty of fouls with her relentless pursuit of the ball.

Rams senior keeper Meghan Kriney felt the key to Saturday’s game defensively was the back five continuing to play as a group. Even with Kera Dam subbing in for the injured Ashley Gordon, the Rams back line stayed connected while dealing with the Knights’ threats.

“I think we read their runs well,” Kriney said. “Maddie Angelo and Lauren played really well, Maddie had a couple huge tackles for us that kept us in the game and kept them from getting a breakaway. They’ve been so solid for us all season and the communication has had them playing as a solid unit.”

While the season ended for North Penn, the result is only a minor chapter in a terrific season for the program. The Knights once sat 4-7-1 but Rio said there was never a lack of belief or fracturing within the team and players were willing to sacrifice for the good of the team that keyed a second half surge into the postseason.

It started with the senior class, but the underclassmen willingly followed suit as the Knights first broke into the district bracket, surged up to host a first round game and made their first quarterfinal in over a decade. Two wins on the road clinched their first state bid since 2007, when North Penn played girls’ soccer as a spring sport.

“They’ve been a great senior class, they helped lead the team through quite a turnaround and especially with what they were able to accomplish this year,” Rio said. “It’s amazing the way they’ve been able to come together and lead the other girls in a way that got us working hard and where we needed to be. The way they work on the field and the way they work off the field is fantastic, they keep it intense but they also know when to keep it light and everyone had that good feeling through the whole season.”

The Knights graduate seven seniors including players like Tia Sheehy, Sacchetti and Liv Urban who have been mainstays in the lineup for several seasons and others like co-captain Emily Schurr and Cavanaugh who made their final season their strongest. It leaves a high standard to reach but Rio felt getting a look at the state playoffs would only drive the returning players to push for more next season.

Pennridge’s forwards put in a lot of effort chasing the ball and not giving up on runs even if a North Penn defender was able to break it up or read and cut off a pass from the midfield. It was one of those runs, made by Emily Kriney, that drew the foul leading to DeHaven’s game winner with 20:51 left in regulation.

 “I give credit to our forwards for working that hard to sprint down every ball,” DeHaven said. “I think that’s what won us the game, the high pressure the whole time from them.”

Anderson said the Knights have been able to throw the Rams off their game at times this season, forcing Pennridge away from its desired controlled passing into a more panicked kick-and-chase style. Saturday, the senior felt like plenty of players on the field stepped up at key moments and helped restore a sense of calm.

“It was little things, getting behind them, making the right runs when the ball was moving and communicating and knowing what would go on before it happened,” Anderson said.

Pennridge moves on to face Conestoga in the semifinals, now one win away from a second straight trip to Hershey for the state championship. It’s been the Rams’ goal all season but even so, they’ve managed a staggering consistency in their performances every game.

“I think going to Hershey last year, making it our ultimate goal in preseason and now being this close to getting there we want to push for it,” Kriney said. “All we want now is to play in Hershey and try to get a state championship.”

PENNRIDGE 0 1 -1

NORTH PENN 0 0 – 0

Goals: P – Lindsey DeHaven (Maddie Anderson)

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