Wissahickon emboldened by effort in draw with Abington

LOWER GWYNEDD >> With the second overtime about to begin, Wissahickon girls soccer coach Chris McDaniels kept it real with two of his midfielders.

Turning to defensive mids Natalie “Scoops” Ryan and Anna May, McDaniels noted they had already ran about eight or nine miles, “so what’s two more?” Greeted by a round of laughs, the Trojans went out and gave 10 more good minutes against the top team in the SOL Liberty table.

Both teams scored twice and both had chances to end it in overtime, but Wissahickon and Abington had to settle for a 2-2 draw Tuesday night at Wiss.

“This was extremely confidence boosting for us, especially coming off a loss,” May, a junior, said. “I feel like this will set us up for the rest of the season.”

The Trojans (2-2-2 SOL Liberty) became the first team to take points from the Ghosts (5-0-1) this season and temporarily altered the division standings. Hatboro-Horsham (6-1-0), which hosts Abington on Thursday, jumped ahead of the Ghosts ahead of their pivotal clash later this week.

Tuesday was exactly the type of effort McDaniels had been looking for from his team and while it wasn’t perfect and didn’t yield a win, it was strong rebound effort after losing to the Hatters last Thursday. When things have gone wrong for the Trojans this fall, they’ve been able to come together and work through them, something they did at halftime on Tuesday.

“I thought we were really good all game long,” McDaniels said. “This was one of the best 80 minutes, well it turned into 100 minutes, we’ve had all season. Our work rate was really high, (Abington) is a really good team but we won a good share of the 50/50 balls you expect to win.”

Sophomore Sage Stelzer, who would play a crucial role defensively for the Trojans against Abington’s standout striker Casey Touey, opened the scoring 16 minutes into the match. The fullback, who also plays some as a winger, received and settled a pass, dribbled in 10 yards and rifled a strike from about 25 out that had nowhere to go but the back of the net.

Abington nearly leveled two minutes later when Camille Mugnier cracked a shot off the crossbar, but the Ghosts were ready to get going. After Stelzer forced another save, the Wissahickon defense had a pair of costly breakdowns about five minutes apart.

“We had our chance to put it away and didn’t execute, but it happens,” Abington coach Rick Tompkins said. “They’re a good team. They play a lot of the same kind of stuff we try to do, they have quality, quality players and everybody else just works around them.”

The first saw Ghosts sophomore Maura Day simply maraud her way through the center of the field before playing a sharp pass to a wide-open Lesha Karaba. Karaba, a senior off to a strong start, hit a one-timer off her left foot that kissed the bottom of the bar and found the far corner of the goal.

After tying it with 12 minutes left in the opening half, Karaba and Day connected again for the go-ahead goal with six to play before halftime. A quick restart saw Caroline Hughes play Day, who was unchecked about five in yards in front before the midfielder played out to an open Karaba who again settled onto her left and looped a bending shot to the far post.

“It’s not that we don’t preach it but we definitely had some lulls tonight,” Tompkins said. “We have bits and pieces where it looks really good and some others where it’s not. Lesha scored two gorgeous goals, but I also hope they leave here and are frustrated.”

Wissahickon’s second goal was all effort. Emma Baker, who spent most of the match buzzing around Abington’s back line with disruptive intentions, forced a turnover deep in the Ghosts’ defensive third. Freshman Lannah Werynski, just back from injury, took it from there.

“Lannah hasn’t played in like two weeks but she dribbles through three girls, looks like she’s about to fall over two or three times and rolls it over to Kylie (Friedman),” McDaniels said. “Kylie usually doesn’t miss from 20, so she’s sure not going to miss from three or four out. It was a really nice goal with some work rate, a little finesse and a forward being in the right place to put it away.”

May said correcting the breakdowns from the first half was all effort. Both Abington goals came off a breakdown and lack of communication, so the Trojans emphasized talking on the field and playing cover for each other.

“We just had to trust each other more,” May said. “After halftime, we realized we really wanted this to be a win and we had to play as a team. As long as we could keep them from pressuring the ball, we would be able to play as a team and hold onto the ball longer.”

Touey moved all over the field trying to shake loose, but the Wiss defense did well to keep the Drexel recruit under wraps for the most part. Stelzer could keep Touey’s pace in check out wide while center backs Margo Kasenchar and Peyton Weber were a wall in the middle. Weber also had a couple of big header wins off Abington set pieces at the end of regulation and in extra time.

Wiss had a golden chance at the end of the first overtime, winning a free kick right on the edge of the box. Ryan hit a good ball, but her target could only put an effort high over the bar as the Ghosts escaped the scare.

On the other side, the Ghosts left a winner on the field in the second extra session. Touey finally managed to grind out a run down the right flank and squeezed off a low cross that met a runner at the far post with the goal wide open but the shot sailed agonizingly wide.

“We had a chance or two and they had a chance or two but I think it probably ended fair being 2-2,” McDaniels said.

Wissahickon heads to Quakertown on Thursday. Earlier this season, the teams played to a 1-1 draw but May and her teammates aren’t interested in adding any more extra miles on their legs this week.

“As long as we’re playing our best 80 out there, there’s nothing to be down about,” May said. “Now that we are able to see and realize our full potential, we just need to keep up our energy and use this positive momentum in our future games coming up.”

ABINGTON 2 0 0 0 – 2
WISSAHICKON 1 1 0 0 – 2
Goals: W – Sage Stezler, Kylie Friedman (Lannah Werynski); A – Lesha Karaba (Maura Day), Karaba (Day).

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