Girls Soccer: Murphy impresses as Haven tries to stay level-headed

If you believed the advance billing, you’d have expected the big name in Tuesday’s tilt between Strath Haven and Conestoga to be Morgan Glassford.

After all, the striker had scored 15 goals in 10 games to open the season, a county-leading pace. While Glassford didn’t perform up to her lofty standards Tuesday, she did have moments where she threatened the ’Stoga goal, including a pair of nice moves in the second half, one an impressive turn and fire across the face of goal that dribbled agonizingly past the far post.

Strath Haven midfielder Sophie Murphy, here holding off Conestoga attacker Alice Regan, was outstanding defensively against the Pioneers Tuesday and added an assist to boot (Times staff / COLIN KERRIGAN)

Her partner in crime Kristen Miller picked up the slack, slotting home on a nice pass in the 7th minute for her 14th goal of the season.

Instead, it was the impressive play of Sophie Murphy that stole the show in Tuesday’s 2-0 win. Hardly as physically imposing as her much larger central-midfield mate Kirsten Wilhelmsen, the diminutive Murphy made her presence felt in collision after collision. She showed an immense amount of grit, sacrificing her body – one that includes a left arm ensconced in a soft cast – time and again to clog passing and shooting lanes.

“She doesn’t get any accolades or assists, she doesn’t show up on the leaderboard,” coach Gino Miraglia said. “But every day, she busts her tail and she cleans up mistakes and clears off everything. She did a great job of dominating one of the state’s best midfields. That (Conestoga) trio is amazing. Sophie did a great job, and whatever got through there, the backline was on tonight.”

On this night, though, Murphy did add an assist, a sublime, inch-perfect through-ball played into Miller’s feet for the first goal of the game.

Where this win takes the Panthers (11-0-0, 7-0-0 Central) is an open question. Ranked No. 1 in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Coaches Association poll, the victory in the matchup of unbeatens stamps the Panthers’ superiority for the time being on the Central League.

But with a tough match looming Thursday against Radnor in a possible trap game, there’s not much time to celebrate.

“We try to tell them that they went out celebrating, we want them to be happy about the win,” said Miraglia, who quickly and decisively rebuked his girls for a rather joyous celebration at game’s end. “But our expectation was to be the better team tonight, and we were expected to win, so I try to tell them not to celebrate like they won something, because we still haven’t won anything yet. We still have our work to do, and we’re going to go out and work harder for Thursday.”

Excitement of the moment aside, his players seem to understand that their goals lie much further down the road.

“I think this is just a really great high point for us,” said Allie Wilson, who was stellar in the center of defense and scored the second goal for the Panthers Tuesday. “We just wanted to get past them because we knew coming into this game how big of a game it was and how tough they were going to play and that we’d have to compete just as much.”

“This was I think one of our hardest games in the Central League,” Murphy said. “Our first goal was to win the Central League, and we can’t be complacent with where we are. We can’t be happy. We just have to move forward and keep winning games.”

Perhaps Miraglia gets the final word here.

“It’s a great Central League win,” he said. “We’ll celebrate it for a little while tonight, but tomorrow it’s back to work to get ready for Radnor and work until we get our final prize.”

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