Soccer Notebook: Vol. 5

By Alex Frazier

Highlighting…Shannon Zickler
“You have to listen to Shannon.”
Pennridge coach Jorge Rodriguez overheard one of his players admonish another as they gathered for halftime in the Lady Rams’ final game against Red Land, down 2-1.
Zickler is indeed the acknowledged general of the backfield.
“This year wasn’t so much her saves,” said Rodriguez. “It was how she organized the back. The great keepers are so smart that they organize their defense to prevent a shot. They make it so they rarely see anything.”
During the season, Zickler and her defense had 16 shutouts, including nine straight before the season-ending loss to Red Land.
“Shannon is constantly giving information and direction,” said Rodriguez. “For a female goalkeeper, that is extremely rare. That will certainly help her at the D-1 level.”
Speaking of Division One, Zickler will be attending Maryland next year on a scholarship.
She made her decision at the end of June. In the mix besides Maryland were Monmouth, Drexel and Moorhead State. Because she was decided on a major, Maryland appealed to her because it offered so many ways to go.
Throw in a great soccer program and an environment similar to what she’s leaving at Pennridge, and it was a no-brainer.
“Maryland had everything I was looking for in a school,” she said. “It’s very community oriented. The coaches and the girls were very accepting. It seemed like they had a nice little family going, which is something I was looking for, coming from Pennridge where we’re all so close.”
Zickler started soccer in the Deep Run organization. Back then, she was a striker. But when she tried out for her first travel team, the coach asked the players who was a goalie.
“Shannon can play goal,” her father offered.
“I didn’t object,” said Zickler. “I was 9-10 years old and what was I going to say?”
Thus a career was started.
“I stuck with it because it was something I liked to do,” she said. “There’s the games when you’re bored, but it’s fun to have a lot of pressure on you. It’s helped me to deal with pressure. You get to dive all over the ground and all that fun stuff, and you get to make big saves.”
Zickler’s leadership skills, as you would expect, aren’t just apparent in games.
“She did a lot to keep the girls organized off the field, as a captain and a leader,” said Rodriguez. “Overall she has a great personality. The younger kids definitely look up to her. They definitely see her as a role model. She’s been a great person for these younger kids to be around. Nowadays, it’s tough to say that about many kids.”
Zickler also gives back to the sport. For the past four years she has been training young goalies, 12-14, at Pennsylvania Rush, a Doylestown club. The first two years as a freshman and sophomore she did it with Pennridge goalie coach Kim Gerhart, but the last two, she’s been on her own.
“It’s a great experience for me,” she said. “It helps reinforce things for me.”
Zickler is not only smart on the soccer field but in the classroom as well. She carries a 4.1 GPA and is in the top 18 percent of her class.
Next year Rodriguez will not only be losing a first-rate keeper, but also an assistant coach.
At halftime of most games, Rodriguez and Zickler will take 30-45 seconds to compare notes on the game as they walk to the huddle.
“She bounced ideas off me of what she saw of the game, and that’s exactly what I’m thinking,” said Rodriguez. “She’s an incredible student of the game, and she’s able to verbalize that not just to me but also to the entire team. It’s a huge asset. It’s almost like having another coach on the field. Players like that you don’t really replace.”
Although Zickler is disappointed her team didn’t make it farther in the PIAA playoffs, she won’t ever forget the Lady Rams’ first district championship.
“We can’t stop talking about it in school and after school, about how much fun it was,” she said. “It will stay with me forever.”
Next year will be a challenge for Zickler if she hopes to start at Maryland. The returning keeper was named to the all-ACC team.
“I’ll have to work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life,” she said. “It’s going to be really hard. I’m going to have to step it up a lot. I have a chance and I’m really hoping I can better myself enough to get that chance.”
T-E-A-M – Pennridge’s season ended on a sour note with a 2-1 loss to Red Land in the first round of states.
But after the initial bitterness wears off, the Lady Rams will have plenty of fond memories of this historic season.
The district semifinal upset of Central Bucks South will certainly be one of them, along with the Lady Rams’ first district title against Neshaminy.
That victory called for a special celebration.
Olivia O’Neill and Lindsey Lyons strutted to midfield and did the “Robot.”
“It’s an inside joke with the team,” said O’Neill. “Me and my teammate Lindsey never did it, so we made a promise to ourselves if we won, we would do it for the team. That was our celebration.”
But more importantly the girls will remember each other.
“This year there’s something in these girls,” said O’Neill. “They come to practice everyday, they work hard. When we move, we keep our heads up, we’re positive on the field. We’re with each other all the time. This year is our year.”
The key to this year’s success, as Maria Kunkle put it, “was hard work and dedication, just a lot of teamwork.
“It starts off the field. We’ve been hanging out basically every day, except probably Sunday since November. It’s because we want to. This team has something special no other team has. It’s an amazing thing.”
Because the girls knew each other so well, they played like a well-oiled machine.
“Everyone has their job to do and something that is great is that we do our job,” said Kunkle. “We never play anybody else’s game. We play our game completely and on defense it’s playing for the person next to you. If someone messes up, you get their back. That’s it. We’re just playing for each other.”
Of course, teamwork doesn’t win every game; there’s also the matter of technical proficiency.
“We’re a team that can play under pressure,” said O’Neill. “We know how to knock the ball around. We know how to play soccer.”
Coach Jorge Rodriguez knew at the beginning of the year this was a special team.
“Three years ago everybody was thinking that with the core players we had the expectation that when these girls became seniors, which is now, that they were going to get very, very far,” he said.
Class AA districts – Two SOL teams qualified for the Class AA district tournament.Springfield and Upper Moreland both won first-round matches before losing in the semifinals.
Springfield won its first game against Plumstead Christian, 4-0.
“SHS came off a 2-0 win against the second place AAA team which gave us great momentum and confidence,” said coach Jennifer Tomlinson. “We went into this playoff game with a high level of confidence and excitement because for the first time all season our hard work and efforts were beginning to pay off. We were playing really good soccer.”
 
In the first half, the Spartans fired off close to 20 shots on goal but only capitalized on one. The first goal came off a corner from Caroline Mountney to Tierney Carabba's head. 
 
“It was by far the prettiest goal of the season, although they had the same type goal earlier in our regular season,” said Tomlinson.
 
The second half the floodgates opened and Springfield capitalized on its opportunities. Leah Sachs scored the second goal early in the second half, and Carabba netted her second before Mountney tallied the fourth.
 
The win sent the Spartans into the semifinals against a familiar Christopher Dock, which they had beaten during the regular season.
 
“The team was excited about facing Dock again but knew it would be a tough challenge,” said Tomlinson.
 
That proved out as Dock dominated the first half, scoring three times.
 
Annie Crudele snuck in a close call on-sides goal off a good cross from Kiersten McLennan to make it 3 -1 at the half.
 
“Kevin Grummun (assistant coach of SHS) and I addressed the defensive positioning at half-time which really made a big difference,” said Tomlinson. “Dock rarely made an attack in the second half.
 
Unfortunately, the Spartans did not finish their vital opportunities, though they maintained possession for a good portion of the second half.
 
“We had about 11 shots in the second half with at least one crossbar hit and two one-foot off-the-post shots,” said Tomlinson. “It was frustrating watching because there was nothing else we could do. We kept pounding but we were not able to finish.”
 
The Pioneers ended Springfield’s season with a 4-1 victory.
 
For Springfield, it will be the last time the Spartans compete in the Suburban One League, as they will be moving to the Bicentennial League next year.
 
“I am looking forward to playing some new teams, facing our AA District competitors and complementing our league schedule with other high level teams possibly in tournament formats,” said Tomlinson. “Being in SOL was great. It provided challenges and opportunities to our small school.  I will miss seeing the coaches and competing against them after seven years.”
 
• Upper Moreland experienced a similar fate. The Golden Bears had a strong showing against Calvary Christian in the opening round, winning 5-0.Christie Graf, Aly Lloyd, Jill Wasson, Brandi Weaver and Caitlin Engle all scored.
In the next round, Upper Moreland faced No. 2-seed New Hope.
“We were happy to draw New Hope since we had tied them earlier in the season; however, we were unable to contain that Werth kid who’s been scoring at random for them,” said coach Joe Joyce.
The Golden Bears were missing their biggest offensive threat Tricia Connolly, a junior, who was on vacation.
“Even with her they were too much to hold back,” said Joyce. “They just shut down everything we had that night.”
The 5-0 loss isn’t really indicative of how well the Bears played.
Lauren Yager turned away 10 shots and stopped two breakaways. 
In the 28th minute, the Bears lost senior Ali Lloyd for the season with a broken fibula and tibula. She collided with the keeper in what turned out to be New Hope’s fourth goal. The Bears did score, but unfortunately it was called back on a corner for offsides with about five minutes left.
New Hope went on to win, 5-0.
Still, Joyce was pleased with the season.
“I thought this year was a learning experience for all of us, including myself,” he said.
The Bears will lose some fine seniors in keeper Lauren Yager, Meredith Rohrbaugh, Ali Lloyd, Caitlin Engle, and captains Jill Wasson and Alyssa Levy, but they return the defense intact, including team MVP sweeper Christie Graf and a strong freshman keeper.
Tricia Connolly and Brandi Weaver wilI be counted on to produce the offense.
“I feel confident that this program will keep growing,” said Joyce. “As far as the playoffs go, that was our second appearance and first playoff win in many years. I can't wait to have them lace them up next year!”
SOL Final League Standings – OK, don’t ever send me to Atlantic City to place a bet for you. It would be like throwing money away. (I already know that, so you’ll never see me near the Borgata, even to see a show).
The final standings are in, and as anticipated, I finished with a lousy 37.5 winning percentage.
I managed to pick the winners and two of the last place teams in all three conferences, but after that I didn’t fare so well.
In the National Conference, Council Rock South surprised me. The Golden Hawks had a very good regular season before tripping in the first round of districts. Abington also showed some progress this year and should continue to improve next year.
In the Continental, picking those middle teams was very difficult as my record proved.
Cheltenham and Plymouth Whitemarsh were both big surprises in the American Conference. Both are young squads, as is Wissahickon, which improved a great deal over the course of the season, and all three should make Upper Dublin sweat next year.
One more season in the record books and just one more spring season to go before the SOL moves to the fall.
Hope you’ll be back next year to poke fun of me.
For my final notebook, I will have the all-league selections and the players of the year.
National Conference
1.   Neshaminy 15-1-1 overall, 13-0-1 SOL
2.   Council Rock South 14-2-2, 12-1-1
3.   William Tennent 10-8, 9-5
4.   Council Rock North 9-9, 8-6
5.   Pennsbury 7-10, 7-7
6.   Abington 5-13, 3-11
7.   Bensalem 5-12, 3-11
8.   Harry S Truman 1-17, 0-14
Predicted finish
1.   Neshaminy
2.   Council Rock North
3.   William Tennent
4.   Council Rock South
5.   Pennsbury
6.   Harry S Truman
7.   Abington
8.   Bensalem
Continental Conference
1.   Central Bucks South 17-0, 14-0
2.   Pennridge 14-3-1, 10-3
3.   Central Bucks West 10-4-2, 9-3-2
4.   Souderton 9-6-1, 7-6-1
5.   North Penn 7-8-3, 5-7-2
6.   Hatboro-Horsham 6-11-1, 3-10-1
7.   Central Bucks East 5-13, 3-11
8.   Quakertown 3-12-1, 1-12-1
Predicted finish
1.   Central Bucks South
2.   Pennridge
3.   Souderton
4.   North Penn
5.   Central Bucks West
6.   Central Bucks East
7.   Hatboro-Horsham
8.   Quakertown
American Conference
1.   Upper Dublin 16-2, 14-0
2.   Cheltenham 10-7-1
3.   Wissahickon 9-7-1, 8-5-1
4.   Plymouth Whitemarsh 10-7, 8-6
5.   Upper Merion 8-8-1, 7-6-1
6.   Springfield 6-10, 5-9
7.   Upper Moreland 4-11-1, 4-10
8.   Norristown 0-17, 0-14
Predicted finish
1.   Upper Dublin
2.   Upper Merion
3.   Wissahickon
4.   Springfield
5.   Upper Moreland
6.   Cheltenham
7.   Plymouth Whitemarsh
8.   Norristown