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Abington settles in, tops North Penn in opener

TOWAMENCIN >> The first timeout of the season was a good one for the Abington girls lacrosse team.

North Penn had come out rolling while the Galloping Ghosts weren’t quite ready to go when first-year head coach Amanda Kammes called a stop, got her girls together and settled everything down. Abington started to score, built momentum and took off through the second half.

It was a good debut for the new coaching staff and a good day for the players as they trusted and played off each other in a 10-7 victory at North Penn.

“I’m changing more than just what we’re doing on the field and I think part of that change was reflective in that we had some things we needed to take care of off the field today and we didn’t show up quite ready to go mentally,” Kammes said. “They got their heads on right after I called that timeout and we came out of it, our demeanor was a little bit different, we did one possession at a time, we took care of the ball, we started possessing and our upperclassmen did a better job leading.”

Gene Walsh — Digital First Media  North Penn's #7 Chloe Novak moves between Abington defenders during game at North Penn March 24, 2016.

North Penn’s Chloe Novak (7) moves between Abington defenders during their game at North Penn on Thursday, March 24, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Senior Rachel Morris paced Abington with four goals on a 4-for-4 crease roll day, also adding an assist while junior Sam McGee filled the stat sheet with three goals, an assist, a ground ball and two forced turnovers. Abington got a well-balanced effort, something the coaches have made a huge priority and the team’s energy picked up after that early timeout.

North Penn got four goals from speedy Bri O’Donnell plus two goals and an assist from Jenn DeLongis, but the Maidens early fire was put out by a resolute Abington defense. North Penn coach Heather Mellow expected a tough game against a Ghost team that had most of its pieces back and she still saw some positives from the effort.

“(Abington) started putting some things together, which worked out for them,” Mellow said. “We stopped playing relaxed and stopped playing fun lacrosse. We were making simple mistakes, defensively we made mistakes on the crease rolls, they picked up on it and found their rhythm.”

North Penn led 5-2 on O’Donnell’s third goal with 10:34 left in the first half, the high-water mark of the game for the Maidens. McGee scored on a clinical shot right in front of the cage, Morris got her first crease roll score and Lindsay Baer fired in a free position shot with 14 seconds left to tie the game 5-5 just before the half.

With momentum now theirs, and being told to approach the second half like a 0-0 game, the Ghosts put the clamps down early. McGee, Morris and Casey McCallister all scored in a 10:16 span to open the second half as Abington wrested control of the game.

“We’re doing things really differently, rather than a 1-on-1 game last year, we’re all working together a lot and that’s dependent on us all showing up to play,” McGee said. “A couple of us, me included weren’t ready at first, but we took some time and made it happen.”

Gene Walsh — Digital First Media  North Penn's #9 Emily Suzuki and Abington's #20 Abby Thomas go for a lose ball during game at North Penn March 24, 2016.

North Penn’s #9 Emily Suzuki (9) and Abington’s Abby Thomas (20) go for a lose ball during their game at North Penn on Thursday, March 24, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

McGee pointed to Abington starting to win draw controls and getting deflections on defense as two big things that started the turnaround. Maddie Sjoholm forced two turnovers and picked up two ground balls on defense, and along with Becca Gable and Jordan Campbell helped Abington stifle North Penn’s array of offensive options.

Much like the offense is now built on trust, movement and sharing the ball, the same holds true on defense where that unity needs to be felt and practiced.

“We’re working through some growing pains and we have some new faces back there,” Kammes said. “It’s the same thing on ‘D,’ they have to trust each other.”

DeLongis stopped the run for a moment with her second goal, but Abington came back with two by Morris to make it a four-score lead with 5:32 to go. O’Donnell cut the margin to three with 48 seconds left, but the damage was done by that point.

North Penn’s biggest losses were on the defensive end, with a new unit in front of returning goalie Michelle Dyck. Locking down the back end is the main priority for North Penn, with the offense showing signs of being quite dangerous.

“We have the pieces, it’s just a matter of putting the right pieces in the right places and working through it,” Mellow said. “It’s still early, we’re still working through it and figuring things out.”

It was a good start for Abington, but the Ghosts also have high expectations for this season. McGee said their eyes are on a league title and then hopefully a run in the district tournament. A lot of parts of the same, but it’s a new look at Abington.

“I emphasize the assist, I want them to celebrate the assist and not the goal, celebrate the cut that got the 1-v-1 drive to open, not the driver,” Kammes said. “That’s how I want our team to be known and I want our culture to reflect that.”

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