ROYERSFORD >> Defense has been the calling card for Spring-Ford throughout the 2019 season.
That was apparent again on Monday against North Penn in the first round of the District 1-3A playoffs.
The No. 14 Rams allowed one or fewer goals for the 13th time this season, defeating the No. 19 Knights 3-1 to advance to Wednesday’s second round game at Owen J. Roberts.
“We all have a connection where we know where each other is,” senior midfielder Shannon Kennedy said of the Spring-Ford defense. “Whenever someone is lost or stuck, someone is always there to back it up.”
Beautiful corner by Spring-Ford. Katelyn Crist to Mackenna Maloney. 3-1 Spring-Ford with less than six minutes left. pic.twitter.com/uaTvuFMN0a
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) October 22, 2019
The Rams are filled with seniors on the back end. Defenders Lauren Constantine and Olivia Willson start alongside freshman Julia Corropolese with seniors Gabrielle Ward and Caroline Snyder coming off the bench. Senior midfielders Kennedy and Katelyn Crist also help out in front of senior goalie Ashley Della Guardia.
Crist made sure the Rams’ offense got going on Monday, pushing the ball to her forwards up the field or using some nifty stick work to advance into the circle and get off a shot of her own.
She opened the game’s scoring late in the first half off an assist by Abbey Boyer to give Spring-Ford a 1-0 halftime lead and later helped seal the game with an assist to Mackenna Maloney on a beautifully executed corner with six minutes to play.
Alexa Collins sandwiched a goal in between, faking a shot to get around a defender before beating the goalie to give the Rams a 2-0 lead with eight and a half minutes into the second half. North Penn goalkeeper Mallory Stowell, who finished with six saves, stopped a few more good Spring-Ford looks.
“We have really fast forwards, and I think our mids have really good ball movement to get it up to the forwards,” Crist said. “It all starts with our defense, clearing it out right away all the way up the field.”
Spring-Ford’s defense held North Penn scoreless through the first three quarters of the game. Other than a point blank kick save by Della Guardia early in the first half, the Rams kept North Penn’s chances minimal, stopping the ball before it got in deep.
Eleni Kountroubis, who made several runs down the field to test the Spring-Ford defense, finally found the back of the net after receiving a pass from Sierra Gee to cut the Rams’ lead to 2-1 with 15:15 left in the game.
They pressured throughout the remaining minutes of the game, but the Rams’ defense held strong once again. Della Guardia made six saves, and the Rams successfully defended seven penalty corners.
“We had some offensive opportunities where we didn’t quite get a shot off,” North Penn coach Shannon McCracken said. “They have tough defenders back there. Sticks were down. They were really hard to work through back there.”
Spring-Ford’s win Monday was the Rams second district playoff win in two years. The Rams’ seniors have gone to the district playoffs in all four years at the school.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Crist said. “We lost a lot of seniors this year, so it was kind of a rebuilding year. It’s huge to win another district game like that.”
Conversely, the Knights had zero district playoff experience on the field to start Monday’s game. North Penn went to the district quarterfinals two years ago, but missed out on the postseason in 2018.
Monday’s loss could set the stage for a deeper district run next season. Seniors Alex Fein, Deborah Kim and Riley Pickford started Monday’s game, but the rest of the Knights’ starters will be back again next year.
“I’m excited that my team got to experience it this year, the playoffs,” McCracken said. “For the sophomoers and juniors, they’re just going to be hungrier. I said to the returning players after the game, ‘I said remember this night and how you want to get more hungry for next year.’”
“They’re not an experienced, but they’ve grown so much and improved so much over the season,” she added. “We were really happy with our effort tonight.
Spring-Ford will face Owen J. Roberts on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Rams lost to the Wildcats, 2-0, in last year’s District 1-3A second round and dropped two games to this year OJR, most recently a 4-1 loss in the second to last game of the regular season.
“We lost to them last year, we lost to them twice this year,” Crist said. “Third time’s the charm and we hope to get them again.”
“They’ve always been a big rival for us, them PV and Methacton,” Kennedy said. “Beating them would make everyone’s season.”
NOTES >> Spring-Ford coach Jennie Anderson praised the play of Boyer in the midfield. The junior was flew around the field on Monday. Particularly impressing her coach was Boyer’s work defending corners. “She throttled a bunch of their corners on their initial shots,” Anderson said. “…We’ve had some injuries over the past few weeks, and she really stepped up when we needed her to.”