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Sports Article
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Double Overtime Leads to Tie for UP Girls
Written by Ernie Quatrani Correspondent

Upper Perk senior goalkeeper Rachel Morelli makes a save in front of the net in Friday's game against Lansdale Catholic.

                A double overtime marathon was just about the last thing the Upper Perk girls soccer team needed last Saturday against visiting Southern Lehigh. But, in the end, thanks in large part to goalkeeper Rachel Morelli, the Tribe managed to salvage a 1-1 tie to bolster a bid for a District 1 playoff slot.

                Upper Perk was playing its second non-league game in 24 hours, against a team with quickness, and the fatigue factor showed in the second half. The Spartans, from District 11, came into the game 7-5.

                All things considered, Upper Perk coach Mike Freed was pleased with the outcome.

                "It was a definite improvement over the previous game (a 4-0 loss to Lansdale Catholic on Friday)," Freed noted. "They had us under a lot of pressure there in the second half at the end. I was very happy with the way we hung tough and battled through it. A tie is not a horrible result for us."

                The Tribe (5-5 PAC, 6-6-2 overall) cashed in on early offensive dominance when Jessie Fisher beat Spartan keeper Ellie Cassel low to the right corner off an assist by Taylor Kearney in the fifth minute of play.

                Upper Perk kept up the offensive pressure for most of the first half. Fisher had another scoring chance in the 20th minute, and Kenzie Gebhardt got behind the defense but shot wide a couple of minutes later.

                Southern Lehigh gradually stepped up its own offensive pressure and was awarded three indirect kicks and a corner late in the half, but the Tribe's freshman goalkeeper, Hannah Landis, and the Tribe's D preserved the slim lead into intermission.

                However, the Spartans really tilted the field in their favor and dominated the second half, knotting the game in the 61st minute when Mady Singley put a rebound past Morelli, who had replaced Landis after the break.

                The senior Upper Perk netminder had been forced to make a couple of sprawling saves earlier, and Southern Lehigh continued to pressure the Tribe defense.

                "I thought we had a lot of tired bodies out there on the field," said Freed. "They had a challenge on their hands. Their No. 8 (sophomore Kristen Cocozza) is a pretty decent player."

                With three minutes left in regulation, the Tribe got a major break when Cocozza's rebound shot at an empty net appeared to be stopped by a defender's hand, but no call was made.

                In the first of the two 10-minute overtimes, Cocozza got behind the defense, but Morelli knocked the shot out of bounds. Halfway through the second overtime, Cocozza again broke free as Morelli raced out to meet her and make a tough save.

                "I thought she made some good early decisions to come off her line. If she sits back, those breakaways are different things," Freed explained.

                Morelli likes to be aggressive and "cut off the girls' angles so they either kick it into me or it goes outside the net."

                Cocozza was not done. At the 99-minute mark she booted a shot wide and with 15 seconds left, she rolled a try just past the post.

                Morelli and Landis have been splitting games all season as Morelli works her way back from an ankle injury that has hampered her most of the year. Only recently has she felt close to 100 percent.

                "This game was definitely one of my strongest," she said after Saturday's contest.

                Morelli embraces sharing time with her freshman teammate. "I think she's definitely a lot better than I was at her age, and she's stepped up a lot. We get along really well. I think it's nice to have that goalkeeper that you can get along with and can talk about the game.

                "I definitely learn a lot from her. I think it's good to have the goalkeepers splitting time."

                The next 10 days will tell the tale of the Tribe's playoff bid.

                "I think we're in a legitimate position to have a good run at [Districts]. I think there's a number of very winnable games," said Freed.

                The veteran Morelli sees the future benefits of making the playoffs. "We are a younger team, and I think that if we make it to Districts now the mindset next year will be even higher."






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