by Tom Utescher
If you’d watched most of the game film from last Tuesday’s Friends Schools League soccer match, you’d have thought that the girls of host Germantown Friends had held their own against the visiting Foxes of Moorestown Friends. But while the Tigers spent many minutes in control of the ball, they never were able to put it in the net. They fell, 4-0, to the quick-striking Foxes, who converted on a pair of corner kicks and netted their other two goals on transition sequences.
Moorestown, which had opened league play against Abington Friends, improved to 2-0 and 9-2 overall. Defending league champ GFS (2-6 overall), which had also beaten AFS, slipped to 1-2 in the FSL, having suffered their first league loss in a match with George School.
Speaking of Moorestown’s playing style, second-year GFS head coach Jeremy Hurdle pointed out, “They’re the only team in our league that sets up the way they do. With a team like that, it’s really tough if you get behind, so letting them get that first soft goal off a corner kick was a turning point. Once they get a lead, they can just sit back. They’re very comfortable defending for long periods, they’ll let you have possession, and they’re tough to break down without a lot of numbers behind the ball.”
Although Tigers goalie Teasha McKoy was called upon to make some early saves against fellow sophomores Alexis Kasper and Kieran Lees of Moorestown, GFS actually spent more time in its offensive half in the early going. The Tigers played around the borders of the box, but had trouble mounting any serious scoring threats.
Overall, offensive production has been a bit of problem this season. Last Tuesday, Hurdle said, “We thought we were the better team in possession, but we weren’t creating enough up front. We need a more ruthless attacking mindset; we tend to play a lot of pretty patterns in parts of the field that aren’t that dangerous.”
Just past the midpoint of the first half, Moorestown got on the board off of a corner kick from the right side. Taking the corner kicks for the Foxes was sophomore Alyssa Runyan, daughter of former U.S. Congressman and former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman John Runyan. She sent her kick neatly across the mouth of the goal, and alongside the far goalpost senior Katie Gregory headed the ball in.
The visitors struck again with 13 minutes left in the half, getting a through ball to the 18 for Lees as she made a run up the middle. With no one closely marking her, the 10th-grader could simply draw McKoy out of the cage and then aim a shot past her.
On an MFS corner kick a little later on, the Germantown keeper was able to snatch the ball out of the air to end the threat. The Tigers pushed up on offense for a spell, not getting off many shots, but eventually earning a corner kick. Freshman Sophy Henisz sent across a good ball, but the first contact inside the box was made by a Fox defender, who cleared it across the 18 yard line.
On a corner at the other end in the waning moments of the half, Moorestown’s Runyan and Gregory duplicated their earlier scoring play, sending their squad into the intermission with a 3-0 advantage.
At halftime, the Tigers’ Hurdle said, “We talked about pushing more players forward. We talked about getting runs from midfield and putting enough pressure on their back line so that they couldn’t play long balls over our head for the counterattack.”
GFS took the initiative early in the second period. Sophomore Corin Grady brought the ball up the middle and forwarded it to Lizzie Becker, but when the senior fired a Moorestown back got a piece of the ball and deflected it. A little over a dozen minutes into the new period, Tigers 10th-grader Riley Knowles launched one from the right side of the box, but the shot was saved by MFS goalie Gaelyn Gregory.
Twin sister of field player Katie Gregory, Gaelyn would make seven saves in her shutout. Just after she stopped the shot by Knowles, Moorestown launched a counterattack. At the other end, Lees angled in from the right wing and booted the ball across into the left side of the Tigers’ den. The 4-0 final score was on the board with 26:50 left to play.
A little over 13 minutes remained when GFS keeper McKoy stretched out a hand to slap away a shot by the visitors’ Kasper. Just after that, McKoy left the cage with a dozen saves to her name and was replaced by junior Lila Sternberg-Sher, who made two stops of her own. McKoy donned a regular jersey and went out on the field to join her twin sister, Portia.
Still, GFS was never able to penetrate the Foxes’ lair. The Tigers were given a direct kick with seven minutes to go, but Gregory stopped the ball struck by Germantown’s Henisz.
Speaking of his lone freshman starter, Coach Hurdle said, “Sophy’s developing nicely. She’s out there with girls who have a lot more experience, but she’s learning quickly.”
Praising some of his more seasoned players after the Moorestown match, Hurdle said, “Hannah Hanson (a junior) was everywhere, as she usually is. Lizzie showed good leadership, and Corin Grady was tidy on the ball. Bad individual performances were not part of the loss; we were beaten tactically.”