GALLOWAY — It's one thing for a coach to build for the future, but once the future arrives, you have to start doing something with the talented players you started as freshmen and sophomores.
A pair of juniors, Allie Tierney and Rylee Getter, are giving Absegami girls soccer coach Elizabeth Lee reason to be excited about the Braves' playoff chances this year. The duo combined for three goals on Tuesday afternoon in Absegami's 4-0 season-opening win over visiting Middle Township, and were simply too much for the Panthers' midfield and defense to contend with.
Absegami (1-0) came out aggressively on offense and peppered Middle's defense with shots from distance, but couldn't get anything past Panthers keeper Brynn Bock through the first 20 minutes.
About midway through the first half, though, the Braves started playing the ball through, and Maddie McGloin took advantage of some traffic inside the box to poke a shot past Bock to put Absegami on the board.
Moments later, Tierney took a ball through and scored on a one-on-one situation to push the lead to 2-0. Getter took over from there, scoring on another defensive breakdown and one-on-one situation, and capped the scoring by blasting a shot from about 25 yards out into the lower left corner.
"It's definitely really powerful to open up this way," Tierney said. "The team has really been working hard, and to see it pay off is awesome. It's going to be a great season."
"We just kept possessing the ball back and forth, got them tired and they got really frustrated. We took some shots, and they went in," Getter added. "We've been working on shooting from distance because we know some of us can shoot (from outside the box). We didn't really do that last year that much so we're picking it up this year. It was a long preseason, so we were excited to get out here. We just have to keep the momentum up."
Lee said her team had a bit of trouble finding the back of the net during the preseason, so she was glad to see the girls break out in a big way in the season opener.
"We are excited about our ability to possess the ball. It's always been my tendency as a coach to teach possession style, and now we have the talent. I've known Allie and Rylee since they were 8 or 9 years old, they were ball girls for us, and Allie's older sister (Kelsey) played for me, so I've been excited to see them come up through the program. It's exciting that we have the talent. I keep telling people we have the talent, it's just a matter of us scoring. We've been doing this for two years, we just couldn't finish in the final third. We had a few scrimmages and it was the same thing, we would possess but just couldn't break free. (A 4-0 win) isn't going to happen against every team, but if we can get one opportunity and can capitalize on it," she said. "If we can shoot from distance — and we have girls, like Rylee, Gianna Hafner and Jada Patrick — who can shoot from distance and, if we can do that, it puts pressure on the defense and opens up seams. If we never try to shoot from distance, they're just going to sit back and wait. If they're playing compact, like Middle was, it's like a wall, so you have to spread them out and shoot from distance to open some things up."
Absegami's defense also played well, as goalies Shelby Cressman and Rebecca Silipena, a freshman, combined on the shutout. The Braves also got some solid play from Sarah Reed, Jada Patrick, Gianna Hafner, Courtney Gaston, Ikechi Wokocha and Simran Kataria, who is one of just two seniors on the squad, along with Sarah Stokes. Kataria actually saved a potential goal late in the game by hustling back inside the six and forcing a corner kick.
"Chi-Chi (Wokocha), one of our girls in the back, is a freshman and now she's starting and playing a lot," Lee said. "Our back four is very solid. We have her and Simran, who saved that goal near the end. She's so smart and hustled back. We have a very composed team."
Absegami faces a huge test on Thursday when it travels to Ocean City for a night game against the powerful Red Raiders, but for now they'll enjoy the euphoria of a dominating season-opening win.
"The vibe, honestly, we have so much fun. The team dynamic is so much different, everyone puts each other first," Tierney said. "We just have to keep each other in the game. Another (thing)about this team is we're extremely encouraging, everyone keeps each other going. We want to keep tasting the wins and just keep it going, keep wanting it."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays