The Upper Perkiomen girls soccer season got off to a sluggish start with a 2-0 loss to Mount St. Joseph’s in a non-league opener played on the scorching home turf last Friday morning.
Adding injury to insult, the Tribe also lost a key part of their defense, Liv Vogel, early in the game after she planted awkwardly and went down in a painful heap.
The Tribe did get off to a fast start in the friendly, dominating play for the first 20 minutes of the opening half, but failing to finish off at the net.
In the sixth minute, Kayla Smith fed Jess Spano at the corner of the goal, but Spano just missed converting the opportunity. In the 18th minute, Smith deked her way through two defenders, but her high shot went over the crossbar. A couple of minutes later, Brooke Knisely’s direct kick from in front of the goal went right to goalkeeper Meghan Keown. Three corners also came to naught.
“First 15 minutes we were all over them, we missed some opportunities,” lamented Upper Perk coach Mike Freed. “Once they got into the game, settled down, they controlled more of the tempo, we just lost any kind of rhythm. We really had a lot of problems running anything through midfield."
Indeed, the Mount finally tilted the field in their favor and Upper Perk goalie Maggie Ortlip was severely tested. In the 22nd minute Ortlip made a great save at the post against Courtney Higginson and a few minutes later Ortlip (seven saves) got her fingertips on a high shot by Colleen Steinmetz.
Upper Perk answered back with their best scoring chance of the day when Kalyn Kates fed Smith who cut across the goalmouth. But Mary Grace McIntyre slid across to deflect Smith’s shot at a wide open net.
With 40 seconds left in the half, the Mount’s Lisa Roman lofted a shot over Ortlip to give the visitors a 1-0 lead and suck the life out of the Tribe.
“We played pretty much together for the first 20 minutes, and then I don’t know what happened,” said Smith. “I guess fatigue and we all started getting frustrated and then that ending goal in the first half kind of killed it.”
One thing that did happen was the injury to Vogel which had a domino effect on the line-up. Freed noted, “It didn’t help matters when we’re seven minutes into the game having to rearrange everything when Liv went out. It is what is. Injuries are part of the game.”
Another factor was the heat, although Freed and Smith were not using it as an excuse. And, of course, there was the solid play of Mount St. Joseph’s which got an insurance goal from Meghan McCabe in the 62nd minute.
Despite the disappointing day, Freed remains upbeat about his team’s chances this year because of the experience gained last season when a half-dozen underclassmen started.
“We have a lot of people back in key positions,” Freed said. “It’s obviously blending in those who are returning with the newcomers. The experience that those freshmen and sophomores got last year can only benefit them this year.”
The goal is to make the district playoffs and to reach the PAC-10’s Final Four.
Freed sees Phoenixville as the team to beat in the small school division as the Tribe tries to improve on last year’s 5-7-1 record.
Once again, the major key to success will be the speedy Smith (nine goals last season).
“You get kids who have great ability, you have kids who have great soccer presence and a knowledge of the field and you have kids who have a tremendous work rate, and, if you’re really fortunate, you get a player who gives you two of those three. It’s a rarity when you get a kid who can give you all three and that’s what she can,” enthused coach Freed, now in his fourth season.