Hatboro-Horsham’s hustle leads way past Wissahickon

HORSHAM >> The Hatboro-Horsham girls soccer team isn’t settling for anything less than maximum effort.

The Hatters are acutely aware that any game could be their last of a COVID-19 shortened season, so they refuse to play with anything less than their best no matter who the other team is. It’s evident in their play and how they look to pounce on any misstep by their opponent.

A fully energized effort by the Hatters turned in another win Thursday, as they handled visiting Wissahickon 3-0.

“I feel like our energy came from playing like it was our last game,” freshman striker Mia Malofiy, who netted two goals, said. “With COVID, we know it could end at any minute, so we’re not letting anything go to waste.”

Wissahickon was looking to avenge a 5-0 loss to the Hatters in the first game of the season and the Trojans’ speed nearly got them on the right foot early. Less than two minutes into the game, forward Emma Baker got in for a shot that was well-saved by Hatters keeper Sam Hollish.

Hollish, a junior who has stepped in to start with All-SOL keeper Martine Royds out for the year with a knee injury, denied another shot a few minutes later, giving her team an early jolt of confidence. Picking up on it, the Hatters’ defenders adjusted and locked down.

“We knew they were gunning for us,” senior defender Izzy de la Torre said. “We got together and said ‘if this is our last game, let’s just keep it up.’ We didn’t want to let them get past us and that was pretty much it.”

Thursday’s win was a third straight shutout for the Hatters and their contagious energy started to have a major impact in the midfield. Center mids Sophia Liott and freshman Emma Levin were terrific at winning the ball, whether it was a first or second challenge while Hatboro-Horsham’s rotation of wingers brought a lot of pressure on the ball.

That turned into a wave of offensive pressure and it didn’t take long for the breakthrough to come. Junior Emily Thomas led the effort, ripping a shot that Wissahickon keeper Caroline Hassall was able to save off the post, but Malofiy was in the right spot to clip it home.

“We’re 0-6 against them in the three years since I’ve been head coach here and I can’t think of a game where their work rate wasn’t super-impressive,” Trojans coach Chris McDaniels said. “Stylistically, they put together some nice stuff but their strength is that they have 10 kids on the field who fight to the death for every loose ball and chase down everything.”

After Malofiy opened the scoring seven minutes in, the Hatters only put more pressure down by winning a few corner kicks, putting a couple more shots on frame and continuing to swarm to the ball in the midfield. Levin was really strong aerially while senior Maggie O’Neill just kept running after every opportunity to move the ball forward or win it back when lost.

The stream of pressure paid off when the Hatters tagged a second goal with about 10 minutes left in the first half. A pass up the side, which the Trojans bench argued had gone out of bounds, found its way to Malofiy, who played it forward to Thomas, with the striker converting on the breakaway.

In two games this fall, Thomas scored six goals against the Trojans and both of Malofiy’s markers on Thursday came off Thomas shots that were saved.

“I’m always looking to crash in and get the rebound,” Malofiy said. “She makes really good runs, she’s just a beast, she shoots from anywhere so you just have to find her and keep running in.”

Hatters coach Kelsey Daley lauded the way her team has come together despite not having a traditional preseason, scrimmages or nonleague games. While the team has strong leaders like O’Neill and de la Torre and veterans like Thomas, there are new players who have had to catch up quickly.

“In the beginning of the season, it was a little confusing how we were going to play and what our formation would be,” de la Torre said. “We’re a pretty young team and in past years, we’d always had a lot of chemistry. With the lack of preseason, we knew it was all or nothing, so we just all meshed well together.”

Hatboro-Horsham, the SOL American champion last fall, graduated six starters and Daley had planned on a bit of a regrouping year anyway. The delayed start and quick turnaround to get to it only added difficulty but the players responded in just the right way.

“We were in a little bit of a panic trying to figure things out and who would play where with the limited practices,” Daley said. “We just decided to practice really hard, I’ve played different people in different places and they’ve really stepped up for us. We make adjustments every single game, but this team just keeps getting stronger and stronger.”

Malofiy finished off her solid day and the team’s win with her second goal when she cleaned up a rebound from a Thomas shot with 15 minutes to play. The leadup saw Thomas rumble with Wiss center back Margo Kasenchar for about 20 yards before muscling off the shot.

While they were dispirited with their showing on Thursday, the Trojans have a big opportunity coming. They face SOL Liberty leader Abington in a home-and-home series next Monday and Tuesday and could jump right back in the conference hunt with some positive results.

The squad’s last loss to the Hatters brought some changes and a run of good play, something Wiss will be looking for again.

“Our defense coming into this game was playing really well and even today I don’t think they were that bad but the tale of the tape is that they work hard,” McDaniels said. “I don’t know if they get up for us, but every time we play them, they just make it very hard for us to move the ball and play our brand of soccer, which we don’t have trouble doing against other teams.”

Hatboro-Horsham’s lone loss thus far came on the road at Abington in a downpour, so the Hatters are looking forward to hosting the Ghosts at their stadium on Thursday. Before that, they’ll have to navigate a back-to-back with Plymouth Whitemarsh on Monday and Tuesday, setting up a difficult week.

“We’ve really improved at connecting passes and creating space on the field,” de la Torre said. “This group of girls, we didn’t think we would do this well, so we’re taking it step by step and going along with where it takes us.”

Goals: HH – Mia Malofiy (Emily Thomas), Thomas (Malofiy), Malofiy (Thomas).

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