SOUTHAMPTON – Eighty minutes of highly competitive scholastic soccer can be exhausting enough. Add twenty more minutes of overtime in which neither team notches the winning goal and it can be downright frustrating.
On Sept. 27 on the Hawks’ home pitch, Council Rock South and Neshaminy engaged in just such an epic girls soccer contest. Incentive for both squads ran high. The Golden Hawks entered the game in third place in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Division, sporting a 3-2 record. Another loss would probably knock them out of contention for a league title.
Neshaminy, on the other hand, boasted a 5-1 mark with their only loss being a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to league-leading Pennsbury. The Lady Skins needed a win to stay hot on the Falcons’ trail.
Neshaminy’s quest to stop Pennsbury from a third straight SOL title started with four impressive non-league wins. Riley Nyhus, senior midfielder for the Skins, thought that the real solidifying moment came in game four of the season.
“Against Bayard Rustin, we came out so strong. I think the score was 3-1. The chemistry in passing the ball was great. We knew where everyone was and everyone was in everyone else’s head and knew what they were thinking. We all knew right then and there, we could go far if everyone works hard.”
Neshaminy continued its win streak by beating league foes Bensalem 5-1 and Abington 3-0, setting up a showdown with archrival Pennsbury. In this crucial match-up, the Skins fell behind 2-0 but roared back on two goals by Brooke Mullin to send the game into overtime. The comeback fell short however when the Falcons’ Cara Thomas found the back of the goal at the 6:27 mark.
Riley knew Neshaminy would have to rally to move past such a heartbreaking loss. “That game is always a tough game for us. The day after at practice, our coach said, ‘We know it’s a tough loss. We came out flat and that wasn’t us.’ We get the whole rivalry thing in our heads when we play them. We didn’t come out as strong as we wanted to. We agreed to learn from our mistakes and come out strong the next time.”
Neshaminy did just that, defeating Cumberland Valley, Council Rock North and Harry Truman and setting up the crucial match with Council Rock South. Riley sensed the game’s import.
“That was an important game for us. Obviously, we would have liked to come out with better results. We went into the game knowing Pennsbury beat them last week and North beat them 3-0. I don’t think we had the right mindset about coming out strong and getting it done. We weren’t focused.”
Riley gave her all from her center-midfielder position. “It depends on who else is playing, whether I am more offensive or defensive. If I’m defensive, then they’re looking for me to win more 50-50 balls and distribute the ball. On offense, I’m in on a lot of the free kicks and I focus on sending people through and getting them to the net, especially Brooke (Mullin).”
Against the Golden Hawks, Riley was all over the field in what was an intensely played battle. “It was a very physically challenging game. They are a very physical, tough team and to play 100 minutes can be really tough on our bodies.”
Even tougher than the physical wear was the frustration both teams felt. In the course of the 100-minute war, CR South goalie Chelsea Jameson recorded two saves. Neshaminy’s Victoria Smith and Riley Spingler combined for six saves. The Golden Hawks held a 6-2 shot advantage.
When the final whistle sounded, the scoreboard showed a 0-0 final tally. As a senior, Riley knew the tie bore special meaning. “It was frustrating, especially to watch some of the underclassmen not knowing what the tie means for our season. Even if we do beat Pennsbury, that tie means not only do we have to beat them but they have to tie or lose for us to get the SOL title.”
With half a season to go, anything can happen. One thing is certain; the Neshaminy-Pennsbury rematch will be an intense affair.