LANGHORNE – It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Eighth-seeded Owen J. Roberts proved that theorem correct in a 2-1 District 1-AAA playback win over No. 4 seed Neshaminy Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 4) on the Lady Skins’ home turf.
While Neshaminy scored on a corner opportunity in the first few minutes for a quick 1-0 lead, the Wildcats (19-5) put one in with just 3:33 remaining to break a 1-1 tie and advance to Friday’s fifth-place game (3 p.m. at North Penn) against seventh-seeded Methacton, a 3-2 winner over No. 11 Mount St. Joseph’s.
With the win, Owen-J – which captured the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division crown – also makes it to states.
The game-winner came off the stick of ‘Cats freshman backfielder Natalie Fuertsch, who bounced a ball into the back of the cage from the left side of the circle. Coming on a corner-op in the waning moments of the second half, the goal left the Skins little time to get the equalizer before the final gun.
“She’s been a real asset to our team this year,” said OJR senior Nettie Montes, of Fuertsch. “She’s had a couple of assists on that corner and one other goal.
“She’s a great player; we’re happy to have her on our team.”
Neshaminy wasted multiple chances to score earlier in the game, mostly in the first half when the Skins out-cornered the Wildcats, 9-2. Ironically, OJR’s season began on this very same field though with a much different outcome when the Cat’s lost 1-0.
“I think we’re really a second-half team. At halftime and during timeouts, we all said that we knew we had to step it up,” added Montes. “We lost our first game of the season here and we did not want a repeat of that.
“So we really brought it in the second half so we could finish the way that we wanted.”
Coupled together with a quarterfinal loss to fifth-seeded Conestoga, the loss ends Neshaminy’s season at 18-3.
“Getting that goal in the first half showed how good we are as a team,” stated Skins senior co-captain Amanda Blum. “I think we needed to get a couple more and we could have done it.
“It just didn’t happen.”
After dominating the first half, Neshaminy saw the play tilt back in favor of the visitors in the second half. Just under 10 minutes after the intermission, OJR senior Makena Aberle poked home the equalizer over a sprawling Skins goalkeeper Haille Sheppard, who made the initial save on the play.
With just 2:05 gone in the first period, Neshaminy juniors Emily Alexis and Mia Sexton teamed up on a corner opportunity with Alexis deflecting Sexton’s shot past ‘Cats senior goalkeeper Amanda Lamb for a quick 1-0 lead.
On many ensuing corner-ops for the Skins however, whenever there was a door open, Lamb quickly shut it down, along with Neshaminy. The senior registered eight saves in helping to send her team to states.
“Since we were the ones with the lead, we should have been playing more offensive-minded,” explained NHS senior co-captain Christen Pennington. “But because they were stepping up their game, we started to play more defensive.”
The Wildcats enjoyed two advantages in the second half – a field that tilted toward their offensive zone along with the sun in the keeper’s eyes on that end. Afterward however, the Skins agreed that had little to do with the outcome.
“In most cases, it comes down to who wants it more and what team is playing better field hockey,” stated Pennington, who will play at Villanova next year.
“It depends on the play, it depends on the teams and the talent that’s out there,” added Blum, who is headed to Quinnipiac. “Environment has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the girls individually and how we work together as a team.
With nine seniors on the squad including four who are committed to Division I hockey programs, SOL National Champion Neshaminy must retool in order to take the field next season.
Luckily, the Skins have a talented junior class that includes Alexis, Sexton, Elena Donato, Taylor Benton and goalkeeper Jill Mitchell. Sophomores Abby Geisler, Kelly Baradziej and Anna Skrot will also play more significant roles on next year’s team.
“They all have a lot of experience and they are wise when it comes to field hockey,” stated Pennington. “It will be an adjustment because there will be a lot of spots to fill but I think that they will be able to do it.”
Additional college commits for the Skins include midfielder Maria Palmieri, who is committed to Drexel, forward Marlena Koellner, who is headed to Sacred Heart (Conn.) and Sheppard, who is going to Arcadia.
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DISTRICT 1 PLAYBACK
Owen J Roberts 2, Neshaminy 1
(Nov. 4 at Neshaminy)
NESHAMINY 1 0 – 1
ROBERTS 0 2 – 2
FIRST HALF GOAL: Emily Alexis (N) from Mia Sexton, 2:05
SECOND HALF GOALS: Makena Aberle (OJR), 9:48; Natalie Fuertsch (OJR) from Corrine Gerber, 26:27.
SHOTS: Neshaminy 9, OJ Roberts 4
SAVES: Amanda Lamb (OJR) 8, Haille Sheppard (N) 2
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