Changes working out as Wissahickon tops Upper Dublin

UPPER DUBLIN >> After getting demolished in their season opener, the Wissahickon girls soccer captains and seniors wanted to make some changes.

Coach Chris McDaniels was also thinking change and after about a half-hour of discussion, the Trojans put them into place. It’s involved some moving pieces, some players sacrificing and a lot of trust, but the results are definitely trending positive.

In a typical Upper Dublin-Wissahickon match, it was the visiting Trojans’ changes that made the difference in a 2-0 victory Thursday night.

“The captains, we walked up to him after the Hatboro-Horsham loss and talked to him about changing some things around,” Wiss senior goalkeeper and co-captain Caroline Hassall said. “He was more than happy to listen to us and talk things through with us. Him being willing to listen to us was a really big thing and him and this team, we want to win for each other.”

Upper Dublin (0-2 SOL Liberty) hasn’t had the same luxury that Wissahickon has in terms of time on the field to evaluate change. Due to circumstances out of their control, Thursday was just the Cardinals’ second match of the season and it happened to be their senior night.

The glimpses were there, but for a team relying heavily on some talented sophomores in the attack, the finished product wasn’t. That said, the team played hard and coach Chuck Gesing believes with the benefit of catching up in the games played department, the Cards will show it.

“We’re young and have at times five or six sophomores out there so we’re going through growing pains and you can’t win games without scoring goals,” Gesing said. “We’ve scored one goal in two games so we have work to do. It never really seemed like we were as dangerous as we needed to be.”

Among the changes Wiss made was moving a pair of wingers in Anna May and Natalie “Scoops” Ryan into holding midfield roles. McDaniels felt the team’s attack had enough going forward he could sacrifice two solid and skilled players to shore up an important part of the field.

Ryan, May and some reserve minutes from Alexis Hobson were good on Thursday at helping stifle Upper Dublin from finding the clinical final pass it needed to create chances. With injury moving senior Peyton Weber, an extremely skilled player, to center back next to Margot Kasenchar and four fullbacks in the rotation, the Trojans feel they’ve shored up the back end of their formation.

“Peyton, it’s not her typical role but she’s willing to do anything,” Hassall said. “Whoever is back there, we want it to be a good environment. We want them to come in and if they make a mistake, oh well, I’m going to make mistakes too so just brush it off.”

Ryan, a set piece maestro who orchestrated both of the team’s goals, may not get the runs up and down the field she had out wide, but she’s taken to the middle wanting to win.

“With me and Anna back there, it was about man-marking them tight and not letting them play fast and I think we did a pretty good job,” Ryan said. “We talk to each other, we communicate and it’s good having someone else back there. We want to win games, so we’re going to go out there and do that.”

Midway through the first half, the Trojans won a free kick about 25 yards out on the right flank. Ryan played it toward goal, with UD keeper Rachel Adelman turning it away. The rebound fell to Sage Stezler, who wasted no time firing it home.

Adelman couldn’t do anything to stop that shot or the brilliant free kick Ryan scored into the opposite upper 90 in the second half, but the UD junior had an excellent game with 10 saves to keep her team from falling further behind.

UD has weapons like senior Anna Desch, junior Ava Costanzo and sophomores Olivia Hoffman, Alex Devers and Regan Rubin, but they’re not yet on the same page offensively.

“If you saw us versus Quakertown, tonight we were better by leaps and bounds,” Gesing said. “If we continue to keep making the same improvement, good things are going to happen. You hope for good luck but you also make your own luck by putting the ball in the back of the net.”

Ryan capped the game with some flair. Another free kick came up on the left side a few yards outside the box and this time, the junior got all of it, burying the take in the upper corner at the opposite side of the net.

“Honestly, I’ve probably done it six trillion times already practicing on (Hassall) so it’s instinct at this point,” Ryan said. “I do look for Peyton’s head or Margot’s head, but everybody’s getting up for them.”

Wissahickon relies on players from all four classes to play and McDaniels noted that sometimes isn’t a winning formula. With his team, that’s not been a problem with the way the players have come together not only with the intention of winning but because they like being together.

Hassall said the team is also playing the season for longtime junior varsity coach Mike Ford, who had to step away this fall after his son was diagnosed with cancer.

“This year more than anything, the team is really tight,” Hassall said. “Someone scores, we celebrate and we’re genuinely happy for them, I think that’s the biggest shift from this year to last year.

“I’ve talked about it with the defenders, they love playing for me, I love playing for them and we just want to win for each other.”

Goals: W – Sage Stelzer (Natalie Ryan), Ryan.

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