LANGHORNE – Visiting Pennsbury senior Kelsey Butler poked home a rebound in the first 30 seconds of the Falcons’ battle Thursday afternoon, Sept. 14 at Suburban One National League rival Neshaminy and goalkeeper Kerry Phillips made sure it counted with her fifth shutout of the season.
Phillips had some help from both the left and the right side posts in this game, which took place inside the confines of Harry E. Franks Stadium, but she made her most impressive save 24 minutes into the second half. That’s when she stoned Neshaminy sophomore Emily Tantala, who got a foot on a ball booted over the top by junior Deana Lebotesis.
While Tantala one-timed the ball mere feet in front of the Pennsbury net, Phillips was equal to the task, steering the shot harmlessly away to preserve the shutout. With the help of juniors Taylor Muller and Ella Palmieri – who switched from a midfield position to the back line – the Falcons blanked their fifth opponent in six games.
Pennsbury senior Jenna Peters got the ball going in the visitors’ direction from Jump Street, getting off a shot in opening moments that Skins netminder Riley Spingler blocked. Getting her foot on the ensuing rebound, Butler made no mistake when she gave the Falcons an early 1-0 lead.
“Adding Ella (Palmieri) to the back line has allowed us to get Jenna (Peters) forward,” said Pennsbury head coach Kaitlyn Battiste. “(Peters) has traditionally been a defender but she’s been able to create a lot of opportunities for us, offensively.
“Adding Ella back there has been a bonus for us and having Kerry (Phillips) back there has allowed us to (rotate the lineup). (Phillips) has been doing great for us, making the big time saves when we need her to.”
Midway through the second half, Neshaminy sophomore Kristin Curley hit the right side post on a shot that had eyes for the corner of the net. An ensuing crossing pass by senior Jackie Ziegler was caught in mid-air by Phillips.
The Falcons also saw some scoring chances slip by the wayside. Just 27 minutes into the game, Pennsbury senior Lizzie Kirk hit the crossbar on a blazing shot that sailed just over the top. A minute later, sophomore Rosie Bostian bounced a shot off the left side post that kept the home team within striking distance.
“I thought we might be able to sneak another one in there,” explained Battiste. “In a contest like this going up against Neshaminy, I was just happy that we took advantage of the first opportunity that we had in the game.”
After opening its season with a double overtime scoreless tie against Suburban One Continental League rival CB East, Pennsbury remains unbeaten on the season at 5-0-1 overall, 3-0 in the SOL National Conference.
The loss drops defending District 1 Class 4A Champion Neshaminy to 3-2, overall, 2-1 in the SOL National. In the team’s recent 5-0 win over Abington, the Lady Skins got goals from Jackie Ziegler, Nicole Palmer, first-year senior Madyson Bolli and two from sophomore Gina Sexton, a swing player in 2016.
“I don’t think every player put their whole heart into the game,” said Palmer. “We could have connected more and we could have communicated more.
“They just had more heart than we did. They won everything in the air, they connected and they found feet.
“At the end of the day, they just played a better game.”
Neshaminy is playing its first season without the services of eight seniors from last year including defender Maggie Daeche (Drexel), along with midfielders Alyssa Tobin (West Chester), Riley Nyhus and Emily Tomlinson (Millersville).
Adjustments to the Skins’ 2017 lineup included moving senior Jenna Obringer, a backfielder last season, to a midfield position and bringing sophomore Jess Dierolf up from the JV team to play on the back line. Additionally, junior Michaela Boyd has returned to the lineup after missing last season with an injury.
Pennsbury also lost eight players to graduation including co-captains Rachel Beri, Jo Tennant and Meredith Webber, now a midfielder at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).
After winning districts and making it to states in 2014, the Falcons have been eliminated in D-1 playbacks the last two seasons, falling to CB South and Downingtown East in the 2016 postseason.
But first, says Battiste, Pennsbury aims to repeat as SOL National Conference champs.
“This is a senior class that the last three years, they’ve won the league title,” the coach said. “They want that league title again so that’s something we’re starting out with.
“Once we get to that point, we’ll worry about (district) playoffs.”
Sophomores competing this season for the Falcons include Bostian, midfielder Gabby Zalot and Evie Ciaccia, a first-year varsity player who is starting on the forward line.
NOTES: Kerry Phillips is the younger sister of Molly Phillips, a four-year starter in the midfield at Pennsbury who graduated in 2011 then went on to play at Gettysburg. Molly also competed in the Women’s Soccer Premier League with the New Jersey Blaze (U-23) and the Jersey Select (U-20) teams.
Pennsbury 1, Neshaminy 0
(Sept. 14 at Neshaminy)
PENNSBURY (5-0-1, 3-0: SONL) 1 0 – 1
NESHAMINY (3-2, 2-1: SONL) 0 0 – 0
GOALS: P — Kelsey Butler, from Jenna Peters, 1st minute; N — none.