CLARKS SUMMIT — After Abington Heights jumped out to an early lead, a strategic move by Wallenpaupack coach Alicia Sodano paid big dividends.
She shifted Mackenzie Turner from center midfield to striker and Madison Nakielny from defense to the central midfield.
Turner scored two first half goals, off assists from Rachael Tirjan, and assisted on another in the second half to help Wallenpaupack defeat Abington Heights, 4-2, in a Lackawanna League Division 1 girls soccer game Friday afternoon.
Abington Heights struck first when Riley Mulherin scored off an assist from Morghan Stiles in the seventh minute.
“I always try to take it down the line as best I can,” Stiles said. “Once I get around the defender, the first person I look to is Riley. I try to get the cross to her because I know she’s so good at finishing.”
Then, Sodano decided to follow through with the game plan the team worked on during practice.
“We talked about it the other day, but I didn’t want to start that way because I wasn’t quite sure how Abington would come out,” she said. “I wanted to wait and see and once Abington scored, we said ‘OK, let’s do it now.’”
Less than three minutes after the switch, Turner took a pass from Tirjan inside the box and scored ‘Paupack’s first goal.
Turner had another great scoring chance a minute later, but Abington Heights goalkeeper Abbey Steenback came out of the net to stop her attempt.
Steenback, who finished with seven saves, also made a diving stop on a shot from Turner in the 17th minute.
Turner deposited a pass from Tirjan in the top corner of the net to put the Lady Buckhorns ahead 2-1 in the 25th minute.
“They were on my back and I heard Mackenzie talking,” Tirjan said. “I knew where she was going to be.
“Every game you have to play your role and today my role was passing it off. Kudos to ‘Kenz for putting them in.”
Stiles pulled the Lady Comets back even in the 33rd minute by firing a powerful shot, from a tight angle, into the top corner of the net.
“I always go to the field and practice that angle, and that exact spot, and I guess it just paid off,” she said.
Steenback stopped Wallenpaupack’s first four shots on goal in the second half, but the Lady Buckhorns broke through in the 62nd minute when Devon Kiesendahl, stationed at the back corner of the net, tapped in Turner’s looping corner kick.
Wallenpaupack added another goal when Katie Mancino scored off Tirjan’s third assist of the game.
“We knew we had more shots than them,” Turner said. “We changed our mentality and knew we had to score now. We missed some goals, I know I missed a lot, but we came back stronger to put the next two in and win.”
Abington Heights coach Errol Mannick was encouraged by his team’s start, but would like to see the Lady Comets be stronger with the ball.
“It was a really good first half,” Mannick said. “We made two defensive mistakes, but we have a whole new defense and that’s stuff we can fix. I’m a little concerned that we lost the ball a lot in the second half. We weren’t in the right position many times and we didn’t do a good job winning the ball and keeping possession.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.