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Pennridge takes control against CB South to win District 1-3A playoff opener

The Pennridge girls lacrosse team poses with the Ram mascot after its District 1 3A playoff opener against CB South. (Andrew Robinson/For MediaNews Group)

EAST ROCKHILL >> It seemed like a perfect opening for Central Bucks South to make its move.

Pennridge senior Maddy Edinger, who had been dominant on draw controls to that point, was standing on the sideline barred from entry due to a yellow card so if the No. 22 Titans wanted to make some headway into the No. 11 Rams’ second half lead, it was as good as a time as any. Except, of course, that Ava Fantaskey was able to step in and win the next draw for Pennridge.

From the draw control circle to the defensive end, Pennridge was firmly in control at Helman Field, as the Rams claimed a 15-7 victory in their District 1 Class 3A girls lacrosse playoff opener.

“We were so hyped for the game,” Fantaskey said. “We had a hard loss against North Penn, so were all excited to get back on our turf and we had the motivation from that, it was a tough game and we wanted to get a big win on our home field.”

CB South’s offense is an exercise in being relentlessly methodical and the Rams knew a quick start would give them some leeway against the Titans’ prolonged possessions. Orchestrating a start like that would begin the draw control circle, an area Pennridge struggled in during its loss to North Penn last week.

Edinger, a standout senior heading to West Chester, put on herself and her stick to be better taking the initial draw while Fantaskey and Grace Rosica were hard-nosed and aggressive coming off the perimeter. The trio helped the team to 17 total draw control wins that helped the Rams to a 3-0 start and to maintain momentum during their second half 5-0 run that turned the tide.

“It was a priority, I don’t know that we harped on it all that much but we had to be ready off the start,” Edinger, who scored five goals, said. “Against North Penn, we lost our composure so tonight we started off like we normally played our game and I just communicated with the people on the circle and trusted they would have my back.”

Fantaskey, who had two goals and was terrific across the board with her energy, defense and hustle, chalked up the team’s draw success to being tough in the circle.

“I think the difference was our boxing-out,” Fantaskey said. “‘Eddy’ had been great on the actual draw and she would box-out and get it every time and on the sides, we practice boxing-out, so it really helped us being able to get in front of them.”

Pennridge’s Ava Fantaskey (left) and Maddy Edinger helped the Rams control CB South in their District 1 3A opener.

South, thanks to some outstanding goalie play by Gabby Mayo, sustained Pennridge’s fast start and clawed within 5-4 at the break. Kate Victor scored early in the second half to make it a 5-5 game and for all the control the Rams had shown in the opening 25 minutes, it was a level playing field.

That’s when the Rams’ defense started to exert control. With three senior backs in Lauren Rush, Nickie Machado and Brynn Wegner who were locked in on their slides and coverage, the midfielders were able to get out and pressure the ball.

“We were just really in control tonight,” Rams coach Karen Feher said. “I kept telling them to pack the eight, pressure the ball and just communicate and slide and they did a fantastic job of holding the one-v-ones, holding the doubles and timing their slides. Applause to our defense for executing the plan completely.”

After South tied it, Edinger restored some order with back-to-back goals off back-to-back draw controls to put the Rams up 7-5. A sparkplug play by Sophie Craig, who celebrated her birthday with the playoff win, saw the sophomore cause a turnover near midfield and recover the ground ball, leading to a goal by Fantaskey to keep the run going.

Fantaskey would add one of those spark plug plays a few minutes later, pressuring the ball and causing a turnover before gathering the ground ball and feeding Kate Unzicker, who drew a shooting foul and ended up scoring for the 10-5 lead.

“We wanted to play lacrosse, we didn’t want to let them just stand there so we were motivated to keep playing our game and to keep racking up the goals,” Fantaskey said. “We wanted to play our defense and play out on the ball. Our slides are always there if we talk and we did talk tonight.”

Unzicker finished with four goals, three in the second half while senior Amelia Loughery netted a goal and three assists. The Rams answered Victor’s run-snapping goal with a new run, scoring four straight to make it a 14-6 game.

Craig, who added an assist on top of her energy on defense, capped her birthday with the final goal of the game in the final 30 seconds.

Pennridge will advance to face No. 6 Methacton on Thursday. As the final seconds ticked down, the Rams seniors not on the field crowded the sideline, waiting for the final horn where they led the rest of the team rushing onto the turf.

“This is the first time we’ve won a playoff game in my four years here, so counting down, it was so hard not stepping out early,” Edinger said. “From the first draw, I just felt the spark was there tonight.”

Eight days after a demoralizing loss, a different Pennridge team stepped on the field Tuesday. It was a team in control.

“When this team is on and meshing as a team, we are on and we are unstoppable,” Feher said. “Maddy, Grace and Ava did a great job setting the tone on the draw control and it’s been something we’ve worked on since the first time we played CB South.”

Pennridge 15, CB South 6
Pennridge 5 10 – 15
Central Bucks South 4 2 – 6
Goals-Assists: P – Maddy Edinger 5-0, Kate Unzicker 4-0, Ava Fantaskey 2-0, Amelia Loughery 1-3, Grace Rosica 1-1, Sophie Craig 1-1, Leah Verespey 1-0; CBS – Kate Victor 2-0, Maddie Flynn 2-0, Teagan Mullan 2-0, Grace Gannon 1-0.

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