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Pennridge edges Norristown, 3-1

WEST NORRITON — To start the season, the Norristown field hockey team had just seven girls come out for the team — far less than the 11 required to fill the roster. But a little bit of resourcefulness by first-year coach Rachel Shuster got a sizeable roster to come out in time for preseason.

There was only one problem, they were girls who had never played the game before.

Nine games into the season and the girls are still fighting for their first win.

Wednesday, a 3-1 loss to Pennridge added another to the total. But by the way the team looks on the field, they are far more skilled than the record shows.

“We started off with seven girls, seven, and you need 10 on a field with a goalie, so I was a little short,’ Shuster said. “I ended up making a ConnectED call to the whole high school and managed to get some new girls.

“Some of them got cut from another team and came out for field hockey.’

Combined with six seniors, headlined by center midfielder Natalie Mitchell and defender Jenny Kennedy with the addition of junior goalie Lauren Whitley, the young team has some good role models to help move them along.

“Our seniors have been extremely helpful with pairing up and helping the new players,’ Shuster said. “I would have never thought we’d look now how we do.’

And while Mitchell is a player who impacts the game coast-to-coast, the younger players are already impacting the game. Tori Braxton and Katrina Fox are doing well as juniors, while sophomore Khaleena Shamsid-Deen got the start on the wing Wednesday.

“This is her first year,’ Shuster said. “She goes home and watches the games, practices at home, watches YouTube videos, and it shows, because she’s been able to come out and has definitely learned a lot.’

Their issues, which were highlighted in both Wednesday’s loss and the loss to Upper Moreland the week prior, stems from an inability to clear from the defensive circle. Pennridge’s Kari Moyer, who scored the first two goals of the game — both before half time — benefitted from working the ball deep into the Eagles’ defensive zone and simply hanging out for the rebound and putback.

The constant pressure can be stressful for the goalie Whitley, but nothing she can’t handle. She simply appreciates the amount of work the young players are putting in.

“I really like playing with these girls,’ Whitley said. “[However] It may get frustrating when they don’t know the right move.’

Whitley had six saves in the game, with Pennridge taking 20 corner shots.

Her understanding of many of the young girls’ first attempt was simply put.

“It’s like throwing a child out into the deep end to teach them to swim,’ Whitley said. “It’s overwhelming.’

Moyer’s two first half goalies spoke to the center-mid’s ability to put herself where they action is — working up field with the ball, dumping it off to fellow attackers and then lying in wait for the opportunity to strike. Her first goal came on a slick backhand shot off a rebound at the 24:21 mark in the first half. Her second goal came less than 10 minutes later was a hard strike with bodies again crashing into the circle.

Mitchell put in a goal in the second half, but that was all the offense Norristown would muster.

The day was especially difficult due to the fact that the team had gotten the boot from the cushy turf field in lieu of a junior varsity football game, and instead played on the lower grass field.

“Grass was definitely a factor … it’s a bit different,’ Whitley said. “We’re kind of out of our element.’

Despite all the growing pains, the team seems to be in high spirits with young players eager to make an impact and eventually start generating some wins.

“We’re playing some established teams and we’re just starting,’ Shuster said. “But for just starting, we don’t look too bad.’

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