FRANCONIA >> Hannah Alderfer wasn’t going out on her home field quietly.
The Souderton senior was in a scoring slump heading into Thursday’s match with Central Bucks West, a match the Indians absolutely had to win to keep their hopes at a playoff bid alive. With her team banged up and 48 hours removed from a loss at Pennridge, Alderfer figuratively found a good hill and dug in.
Alderfer didn’t go quietly and neither did her teammates as the Indians, paced by three goals and an assist from the forward, beat the Bucks 6-0 as they look to find a way into the District 1 4A playoffs.
“We had to win this game to have a chance for playoffs so everyone, not just me, was really pumped up,” Alderfer said. “We’re just trying to get to the point where we can continue our season.”
Alderfer, who also plays basketball, is no stranger to big games. She’s been a starter since her sophomore year, when the Indians (5-5 SOL Colonial) won the PIAA 4A title and she brought an extra bit of energy to the field on Thursday knowing it was something the team lacked against Pennridge.
The Indians entered play seated No. 23 in the District I 4A power rankings while the Bucks (6-2-1 SOL Colonial) had a grip on the No. 8 spot. With just 16 teams making the field this year and a staggering amount of variables still in play, all Souderton could control was its 80 minute effort on Thursday.
“It was long past overdue,” Souderton coach Ian Smith said. “I’ve been moving people around left and right, but everybody stepped up today and helped get the monkey off our back with that inconsistency that we’ve been dealing with. It’s something now behind us and a performance like that is all you ask for.”
While Souderton was shorthanded – senior captains Averie Doughty and Gianna Natale were among the injured on the bench – the group came together for the common goal. Senior Taylor Yoder, a forward who converted to defender this season, changed spots again and played center back while sophomore Natalie Rankin made her varsity debut at left back.
The move was so last-minute that Rankin had to run back to the athletic office and get a spare varsity jersey before the game but she stepped in and played very well. Likewise, junior Avery Nogami started in Doughty’s place at forward with freshman Alivia Beresovoy taking Nogami’s place as first forward off the bench.
“Today, you could see everyone wanted it right from the beginning,” Souderton keeper and co-captain Morgan Molyneaux said. “That’s what the family mentality is about, playing with each other and for each other for the entire 80 minutes of the game.”
Molyneaux, who has been stellar in goal all season, posted the shutout with seven saves on Thursday and kept her makeshift back line engaged and organized.
In the first meeting between the teams, West jumped out to a big lead and responded in turn when the Indians tried to surge back into it. On Thursday, Souderton jumped ahead early and rarely gave West any kind of opening to try and stabilize itself.
Souderton’s midfield played a pivotal role in that, putting up a roadblock to West’s direct style of play and limiting the amount of long balls going the way of Taylor Moyer and Riley Corona.
“I’m most proud of how everyone had that mindset of family today,” Molyneaux said. “We played for each other for 80 minutes. We had a mindset that nothing was getting past us and you could just see it out there and everyone who needed to step up did so for each other.”
Alderfer only needed eight minutes to break her scoring slump. A throw-in by right back Ella Kregel led to a header by Alexis Stefanowicz that laid right into Alderfer’s path on the opposite side of the field, allowing the senior to tee up a far-post finish.
Souderton’s high-pressure play extended all the way up the field and Alderfer bagged her second when Nogami forced a half-block, half-save that rebounded to the trailing Alderfer for a half-volley into the vacated goal with 15:15 left on the halftime clock.
The senior finished out the half playing left back while Rankin got her only rest of the day, but Alderfer was back at forward for the second half eager to try and put away a third.
“I wanted it so bad,” Alderfer said. “I hadn’t been scoring lately and I just needed something to get me going again.”
While she would have to bide her time, her teammates seized on her inspiration and continued to open up the lead. Midfielder Kaitlyn DiCandilo scored a superb goal seven minutes into the second half, driving up the center of the pitch and lofting a shot that powered through a valiant effort by the keeper and in for a 3-0 edge.
Nogami was next, finally getting a payday for her efforts. A long ball by Yoder out of the Souderton defensive third got the junior in and she drove through a tackle attempt by the keeper and a defender, recovering to line up a rolling shot that nestled home.
A show of hustle by Alderfer led to Souderton’s fifth tally when the senior ran down a cross by Kregel on the opposite touch line and delivered a perfectly weighted pass to striker Katie Pazdziorko for an clean shot in with 15:39 on the clock. While the team’s state champion seniors often provide the lift, Alderfer said the underclassmen are just as good giving it back.
“Everyone works off each other’s energy all the time,” Alderfer said. “If one person’s not working as hard, you see the whole team kind of collapses but the same thing is true when we all work hard, we’re capable of really coming together like this.”
Finally, the awaited third goal came. Fittingly, it was Pazdziorko on the assist following a great run down the right side and across by the junior before she squared up a clean look for Alderfer to tie up the result.
“We want to go as far as we can,” Alderfer said. “For us seniors, it’s our last season. You never know how far you can get and when it’s going to end.”
West has one more game on its schedule, a visit to Pennridge on Tuesday night. The Bucks, who got seven saves from Jules Broskey, are the only team to have beaten the Rams so far this season.
Souderton will await its standing following Thursday’s result and continue to train with an eye on the postseason. Smith said he’s working to schedule an additional game next week and added he’s willing to “roll the dice” against a quality opponent that may be in a similar position of trying to find a way into districts.
While teams that don’t qualify for the postseason are free to continue adding matches until Thanksgiving, the Indians knew Thursday was potentially their last action of the season. However it plays out for them going forward, they left their field proud of what they had shown when the stakes were at their highest.
“If it was our last game, especially it being a home game, we showed out well,” Molyneaux said.
SOUDERTON 6, CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 0
CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 0 0 – 0
SOUDERTON 2 4 – 6
Goals: S – Hannah Alderfer, Alderfer, Kaitlyn DiCandilo, Avery Nogami, Katie Pazdziorko (Alderfer), Alderfer (Pazdziorko).