Girls Soccer: Odds and Ends from Strath Haven’s District run

There’s only so much information you can pass along when you’re trying to bang out a game story on deadline with semi-frozen hands, especially in a case like Saturday in which the Strath Haven girls team elected to give me six goals to have to write about.

Saturday’s trouncing (or shellacking … or dismantling … or complete and utter demolition, it’s hard to capture it in just one word) was the third straight game I’ve seen the Panthers play. In that time, there are some nuggets of wisdom that necessarily fall through the cracks of stories like the one somewhat quickly constructed Saturday.

The Strath Haven girls soccer team receives the District One Class AAA championship trophy Saturday after a 6-0 win over Downingtown West. It’s the first 3-A district title in school history.

So to celebrate the end of a long blog-posting drought, let’s do a Strath Haven District One odds and ends special edition.

– If it was hockey, Morgan Glassford would’ve had five goals Saturday (but technically, we have to credit Downingtown West with two own goals in which Glassford was the closest Panther). That’s about the level of dominance she displayed against the Whippets. I’d be willing to bet that Glassford saw the correlation in Haven’s recent results: Five games without a goal for her translating into four 1-0 wins and a trip to penalty kicks in the semis after the game finished scoreless for Haven. On the biggest stage, Haven’s biggest player delivered. That’s what leaders do.

– Perhaps what made Glassford’s performance Saturday all the more impressive is the stark contrast to what she did two days prior. Playing as the center forward, she was isolated with touches few and far between. The space she found Saturday must’ve been such a revelation. Kirsten Wilhelmsen’s outstanding play on the first goal laid the groundwork and got her over the hump, and once things got rolling, there was no stopping her.

– Final point on Glassford: I’ll be checking in at practice Monday to see what the status of her injury is. No need to speculate until then.

– I’m astounded at how many options Haven has despite being a relatively small team (especially in comparison to the two teams they just topped, Central Bucks West and Downingtown East, who carry 30-40 girls on the bench). Ami Iannello notched the game-winning goal in the second-round win over Unionville. Jamie Kenney had the closest thing to a goal against C.B. West and provided some solid play Saturday, Kathryn Restrepo’s penalty-kick exploits are well-documented and someone like Jamie Taylor who has played sparingly came in Saturday and did an outstanding turn of work in the second half, allowing Gino Miraglia to rest some of his starters in a game that was decided.

– Glassford and Kristen Miller get the headlines; scoring 40 goals combined will do that. But when it comes down to it, the Panthers are District One champions for the first time because they have, by far, the best midfield in the area. Wilhelmsen is tough as nails and extremely skilled on the ball. Sophie Murphy has taken a beating the last two games, being felled by several hard (and dirty) fouls. But when she has the ball in her feet, it almost looks like it’s on a string. Grace Dickey and Bri Irons also take turns in the middle of the pitch, and they’re both able to contribute offensively and defensively.

– Strath Haven has given up four goals this season. The more I see them, I’m starting to realize the main reason is Allie Wilson. Simply put, she’s everywhere. She knows when to step up to stop the ball. She knows when to drop and cover a runner. She knows how far from the middle she can go to cover the wings. She always seems to know when to provide the big boot to get the ball out of trouble. She and Jenny Carey formed an outstanding partnership before Carey went down with what is in all likelihood a season-ending knee injury Thursday. Something tells me she’ll pass on that support to whoever her new partner happens to be.

– Speaking of Carey, it’s important to laud Kira Venturini’s role in stepping to the void left by Carey’s injury. She was solid alongside Wilson in keeping the Panthers’ eighth straight clean sheet Saturday. Irons and fullback Katherine Burk also have big roles in that effort.

– Perhaps the most impressive thing about Saturday’s win was how fast the Panthers were able to play. One of the big aspects of a tournament like districts, especially in the first three rounds, is the notion of grass teams vs. turf teams. Just ask a team like Garnet Valley, which plays on turf, how tough it is to try to adjust to grass on the fly. The Panthers play their home games on about as rough a terrain as is legally permissible at King Field. But Saturday, against an 18-3 Downingtown West team that plays on turf, the Panthers speed and one-touch football was exquisite. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the number of lacrosse players on this team who also contributed to last year’s state runner-up squad, plus Wilson and Miller are track All-Delcos (Kenney was a second-teamer). That adaptability adds to the Panthers’ state-championship candidacy.

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