Enjoying the game

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Abington Heights’ Riley Mulherin moves the ball past Scranton Prep’s Ava Buttner during a girls soccer playoff game for the Division I title at Dunmore High School on Thursday, Oct. 17. Abington Heights won, 1-0.

Her 25 goals this season are a career best, but Abington Heights junior midfielder Riley Mulherin knows two things for certain.

She wouldn't be at 63 career goals, and her team wouldn't have won the Lackawanna League Division I girls soccer title without the 10 other girls on her side.

"Without them, I couldn't score," Mulherin said. "And the relationship we all have together, it builds us up as a whole. And everyone plays an important role. It's about teamwork."

And enjoying the moment.

That's something Lady Comets coach Errol Mannick has tried to get Mulherin to do more of this year.

"I think the biggest thing I've noticed from her is she's just starting to enjoy the game," Mannick said. "And this is even just from the beginning of the season. The first couple games I said to her, ‘Hey, smile, enjoy what you're doing.' Sometimes when you have a lot of pressure on you, when you're really good and people know it, there's a lot of pressure on you. And you lose track of what you did this sport for in the first place.

"She's really good. She's a special talent, that's for sure."

Scoring goals is nothing new to Mulherin, who had 19 last season but is far more interested in her team achieving goals than her own numbers.

"We're working together as a whole, definitely communicating, talking constantly on the field," Mulherin said. "Talking where we need to be on the field and to get passes to each other."

Mannick thinks her ability to be selfless and, when needed, take the ball to the net, has helped the team's growth and success.

"She really takes things to heart and she just wants to be a good teammate and she wants her team to succeed," Mannick said. "And whatever that takes for her, that's what she will try to do.

"She's super aware of how important the group is to the team's success."

Being at the right spot at the right time has helped her own numbers, but once the ball is on her foot, a lot of instinct comes into play.

"You just have to put it where no one is," Mulherin said. "I don't really know why, I just have a gut feeling."

If the ball is bouncing or settled, Mulherin is capable of finding the back of the net.

"During practice, coach makes us shoot both left and right (footed)," Mulherin said. "Even when I was developing as a player, I always shot with both of my feet and was naturally good at it.

"Coach sends different balls into the box and we have to finish, whether the ball is bouncing or just passed."

One of the most impressive scores came late in a regular-season game with Scranton Prep where Mulherin volleyed a shot out of midair for the tying goal in a 3-3 contest.

"It was huge," Mannick said. "We had played so well in the first half of that game. We dominated that game. Dominated. It should have been 5-1.

"And Prep came out with this amazing energy in the second half and we just were not able to match it. We got down and nothing was working. For her to get that in there and get at least a tie situation, turn something that was really good, that started to go bad, to now something that was manageable. So far, that's the biggest goal of the season. And we're hoping for many more bigger than that."

Contact the writer: mmyers@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100, ext. 5437; @mmyersTT on Twitter

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