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Knapp steals the show as Haverford heads to quarters

HAVERFORD >> Kelsey Knapp left her coach Christa Taylor short of words Wednesday. The rest of the crowd at Haverford High fell into stunned amazement.

Knapp’s second-half goal clinched the Fords’ 3-0 win over Neshaminy in the District 1 3A field hockey playoffs, but it was the style with which Knapp finished it off the truly impressed.

“It was like, woah,” Taylor said. “It was awesome. And it was perfect coming from her, too. She has a big hit.”

Haverford’s Carly Gannon flips a backhander just wide of the Neshaminy cage Wednesday. Gannon assisted on Katie Redding’s second goal as the Fords used three second-half tallies to advance to the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win in the District 1 Class 3A tournament. (For Digital First Media/Matt Chandik)

Indeed she does. Knapp, on a restart from 25 yards out, beat her defender and without pausing ripped a shot that flew into the upper corner of the net. It was a stunning strike and one that came straight off the practice field.

“We’ve been practicing that a lot, pulling right and just get off a straight shot from the circle,” said Knapp. “So that’s what I was thinking: Pull right and just shoot right away.”

It worked to perfection and provided the exclamation point for what was a different Fords team after the break, fueled by Knapp’s tally and two goals from sophomore Katie Redding.

Fourth-seeded Haverford succeeded in attacking down the wings in the first half but failed to really threaten the 13th-ranked Redskins’ goal. The Fords finished with just four shots on goal, a low number considering their dominance in possession in a scoreless opening half.

“I think we carried way too much,” said Knapp. “We tried to carry it around defenders and it wouldn’t work. They just put their stick down.”

On the other end of the field, a defense led by Meg Phillips and goalkeeper Mary Grace DePlato stood firm to keep the game even. Phillips cleared several corner attempts from in front of the cage, while DePlato’s aggressive style cut down the Neshaminy attack. Her best save of the night came with 3:30 to play in the first half. She kicked out her left leg, sending the ball out of play and danger.

Haverford’s best chances to jump ahead came from Redding, whose sprints down the right side pressured the Redskins defense. Several crosses made it to dangerous areas, but the Fords couldn’t find the final touch.

That changed after halftime.

“We do try to go baseline, if you’re forced baseline,” said Taylor. “But if you’re not forced to the outside, let’s take it down the center. We did tell the girls that once they got inside that offensive 25 to start going more to the center of the goal and taking more shots.”

Haverford’s Katie Redding, right, stickhandles around Neshaminy defender Asia Barnard Wednesday night. Redding scored a pair of goals as the Fords scored a 3-0 win in the second round of the District 1 Class 3 tournament. (For Digital First Media/Matt Chandik)

In other words, be more decisive. Her players listened.

Redding broke the deadlock at the 27:36. Played in by Sydney Corcoran, Redding immediately drove to the right post. Her initial move was halted, but she was able to smack in a rebound to give Haverford the lead.

“I thought we needed to go fast as a team,” said Redding. “They came out fast. We needed to be faster. I went with speed and took the baseline.”

Six minutes later, Redding doubled the Fords’ lead with her second goal in almost identical fashion. Corcoran won possession in the midfield and started a counterattack. She dished to Carly Gannon, who like Redding before her, drove hard to the cage, leaving a few defenders behind her. Redding was waiting to tap in Gannon’s pass.

“I saw Carly going with speed down the field and I knew I had to be on that far post for the tip,” explained Redding. “I positioned my feet to the goal and got ready.”

Redding’s second marker followed the Redskins’ best sequence of play. Neshaminy came close to knotting the game at one, only to be thwarted by DePlato and co. Taylor didn’t like what she saw and called timeout. Gannon found Redding less than a minute later.

From there, it was the Knapp show. Her rocket put the finishing touches on things with 11:50 to play.

Haverford (17-2) will host No. 5 seed Central Bucks East, which dispatched No. 12 Perkiomen Valley by a 7-2 margin, Friday at 3:30 in the quarterfinals.

“That big shot from the top of the circle was huge,” said Taylor. “Hopefully we get a few more of those on Friday.”

If “those” refers to goals in general, then yes, Taylor can hope. But she knows goals like Knapp’s are a rare and awesome sight.

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