DeCarlo paces young Pan­thers to im­por­tant vic­tory

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter Times Daily

CON­CORD » With a start­ing lineup com­pris­ing four fresh­men and two sopho­mores and a team tasked with re­plac­ing the two-time

Girls Soc­cer Player of the Year, it shocked few peo­ple that Strath Haven at times this sea­son has strug­gled to find the back of the net.

In the ef­fort to play to the Pan­thers’ strengths, cross­ing out the pos­si­bil­ity of wide­spread veteran savvy and proven goal pro­duc­tion, what was there to rely on? Well, there’s the team’s usu­ally welldrilled struc­ture. And there’s that right foot of Liz DeCarlo.

DeCarlo’s set-piece de­liv­er­ies set up a pair of first-half goals off cor­ner kicks — fin­ished by Naomi Dickey and Paige Gille­spie — that sent the Pan­thers on their way to a 3-1 Cen­tral League win over Gar­net Val­ley Thurs­day night.

Grace Forbes added a sec­ond­half tally for Haven, and while Kayla Morey got Gar­net Val­ley on the board with less than three min­utes to play, it wasn’t enough.

When of­fense is in short sup­ply (in part be­cause of the grad­u­a­tion of Lizzie King last year), Route One for Haven is via cor­ner kicks, of which they drew six. That’s DeCarlo’s time to shine.

“We’ve been prac­tic­ing cor­ners a lot be­cause set pieces have al­ways been one of our strengths,” the se­nior left back DeCarlo said. “In the past cou­ple of games, we’ve just re­ally done well with con­nect­ing on them. And it was kind of like (Gille­spie) knew she had to make the run — that’s the run we al­ways make, it’s al­ways a dif­fer­ent per­son. But we knew that if we keep mak­ing those runs with the ball place­ment, it will come. They know where to go.”

The first goal was a pic­ture-per­fect con­nec­tion with Dickey, one of a bevy of sopho­mores in the ro­ta­tion, rush­ing into the box to vol­ley a near­post cor­ner 13 min­utes into the game.

Gille­spie’s goal was scrap­pier, be­fit­ting her lack of goalscor­ing rep­u­ta­tion (it’s just “the sec­ond of her life,” she said). The ball car­omed off a Pan­ther in the box, then off Gar­net goalie Kayleigh Saboja and the cross­bar. But Gille­spie was wait­ing on the doorstep to head home into the yawn­ing cage, equal parts as­sertive and op­por­tunis­tic.

“Liz had a great cross in and I guess I was in the right place,” Gille­spie said. “… We’ve been prac­tic­ing. Liz’s cor­ners are great and they of­ten go to that same spot, and I was hop­ing it would go there. And she kicked a per­fect ball.”

Those bursts of of­fense of­fered cush­ion for a fresh­men skele­ton to the team that shows im­mense prom­ise. The cen­tral mid­field duo of El­lie Malek and Mag­gie Forbes, both ninth-graders, con­trolled the pace in the mid­dle of the pitch, with poise on the ball and pass­ing ap­ti­tude that be­lies their ages. Devon Mail­let took shifts run­ning the wing. And Danielle McNeely was rock solid at right back.

Malek helped set up the third goal, her driv­ing run at the back­line suck­ing in two de­fend­ers be­fore play­ing Margo Hotham into space down the right chan­nel. Hotham’s shot was saved by a div­ing Saboja — an­other im­pres­sive fresh­man with seven saves on the night — but Grace Forbes ap­plied the pres­sure with her back-post run, head­ing home the re­bound.

McNeely has found a home on the back­line, where change has be­come the norm. DeCarlo is the es­tab­lished se­nior at left back, but the rest of the unit is new, thanks largely to a pair of in­juries early in the sea­son.

They read, from right to left: The fresh­man McNeely, con­verted sopho­more goal­keeper Claire Wol­gast, con­verted se­nior winger Elisa Kruse (who played spar­ingly last year) and DeCarlo. Yet they hardly put a foot wrong un­til the game was sealed.

“It was tricky at first, get­ting chem­istry with them. It’s a whole new back­line,” DeCarlo said. “But we’re all very com­fort­able with each other, so we’re al­ways talk­ing on who has who, and when marks shift over. Just from prac­tic­ing and play­ing in games, we’ve learned what our strengths are and what our weak­nesses are.”

Gar­net Val­ley found chances harder to come by. Their first at­tempt on tar­get didn’t ar­rive un­til the sec­ond half, a Re­gan Nealon shot eas­ily han­dled by Carly Perl­man. With in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder Alyssa Saito hob­bled by leg in­jury, the field seemed largely tilted in Haven’s fa­vor, par­tic­u­larly in the first half.

“It was re­ally hard,” Morey said. “We weren’t on our game tonight. and like, we weren’t a team tonight. It was re­ally hard, and I think we came back re­ally well in the sec­ond half. It just wasn’t the re­sult that we wanted.’

Morey fi­nally got a shot three min­utes from time, the mid­fielder head­ing home a driven cross by de­fender Kam­ryn McNeal. But it wasn’t enough to over­turn the Pan­thers’ youth­ful en­ergy.

“They’re do­ing a fab­u­lous job,” Gille­spie said of the fresh­men corps. “They’re re­ally tak­ing con­trol, and we’re work­ing to­gether a lot in the mid­field. I think it’s re­ally or­ga­nized and it was def­i­nitely dif­fer­ent com­ing in with a younger team, but every­body’s skills are great and I think every­body’s pretty equal on this team.”

Also in the Cen­tral League: PENNCREST 3, MARPLE NEW­TOWN 0» Cor­ryn Gam­ber paired a goal with an as­sist, and Mi­randa Crop­per made six saves in goal as Penncrest (13-1, 9-1) recorded its 11th shutout of the sea­son.

Ju­lia Mul­laney and Carly Bail­lis also scored for Penncrest, and Kat Mul­laney and added helpers. HARRITON 2, SPRING­FIELD 1 » Julie Schick­ling scored in the sec­ond half to force over­time for the Cougars, but a brace from Rams’ se­nior Mor­gan Rees com­pleted in the sec­ond ex­tra ses­sion made the dif­fer­ence. Shan­non Cut­cliff made five saves in goal for Spring­field.

In Bi­cen­ten­nial League: CHRIS­TIAN ACADEMY 2, BAP­TIST RE­GIONAL 0 » Lindsay Hasel­tine tal­lied twice in the sec­ond half for the Cru­saders, the first off a Grace Gormley cor­ner kick. Emma Mans­field posted the shutout for TCA (87, 5-5) with four saves, aided by out­stand­ing de­fense from Jenna Evans and Jes­sica Sear­fass.

In the Del Val League: IN­TER­BORO 7, PENN WOOD 0 » The Bucs (8-7) shared the wealth: Ni­cole Floyd, Kerri Bar­nett, Jack­lyn Floyd, Faith Sabre, Cas­sidy Chadwick, Mor­gan Reed and Kayla Drox­ler all found the back of the net.

In the Catholic League: ARCH­BISHOP RYAN 1, CAR­DI­NAL O’HARA 0 » Kerry Pat­ter­son stopped 11 shots, but Kait­lyn Find­lay’s sec­ond-half tally sep­a­rated the sides. Shayna Pol­sky

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Strath Haven mid­fielder Paige Gille­spie scores teams Thurs­day. Strath Haven won 3-1. against Gar­net Val­ley in the first half of a game be­tween the

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