LANGHORNE – Going into the district playoffs, the Neshaminy girls squad was playing inspired soccer. Not only did they attack the enemy goal with relentless pursuit, but they readily blanketed their opponents’ offensive attacks. This domination continued as the Lady Skins defeated Strath Haven 4-0 to take the PIAA district opener and then defeated number five seeded Conestoga on penalty kicks Oct. 26 on the Pioneers’ home pitch.
In its last four regular season games, Neshaminy outscored their opponents by a 14-0 margin. They chalked up convincing wins over Council Rock North 2-0, Archbishop Wood 3-0, Harry Truman 8-0 and Council Rock South 1-0. That was just a precursor to what has become playoff magic.
As Riley Spingler, junior goalie for the Skins, admits, the trek to the playoffs proved a matter of evolution. “I think this year is just as good if not better than last year. We’re finally working together and communicating. In the beginning we did have a kind of rocky start but we progressed and we’ve individually gotten better. More importantly, now we work tremendously well as a team.”
The turning point in Riley’s estimation was the Council Rock North game. “If I had to pinpoint a time, I would say the game with CR North was key. That was a game where we all got together. Everything was aligned.”
For Riley, a balanced attack lies at the heart of Neshaminy’s success. “I think we’re a pretty balanced team. Our defense is playing tremendously well. I’m so lucky to have them in front of me. It would have been ten times harder without Nicole Palmer getting everything with her head and being a leader back there … and Genna (Obringer) backing her up and our two outside defenders (Alex Ziegler, Hannah Stonkus) helping out.”
Riley’s praise does not stop with the defense. “I’m really impressed with Kristin Curley’s work in the middle and Michaela Boyd as well in the middle. Those two really connect as midfielders with the forwards. We are all just working together.”
The team chemistry came at the right time. “I think toward the end of the season everyone started to realize the work we need to do and the intensity these games are going to bring. You keep playing better and better people.”
Strath Haven provided the first challenge, one Riley feels the Skins took too lightly. ‘We underestimated them. We weren’t as excited as we should have been. They scored a quick goal. The goal was just a bad touch and I was a little off my line. I got a touch but couldn’t get it over the bar.”
Neshaminy immediately rectified their mistake. “After that, we really pulled it together and realized we had to step it up. We got another goal and then three more and it was all good.”
Jackie Ziegler led the offensive charge, scoring Neshaminy’s first goal in the 16th minute and then assisting on the last two goals. Curley followed with a header to the back of the net. Boyd and Palmer rounded out the Neshaminy scoring effort.
The 4- victory set up a second round contest with the number five seeded Conestoga squad. “We were really happy that the game (Strath Haven) went our way. We all played well and were super excited to play our next game. We knew Conestoga was ranked fifth so we were excited to see what they have and how well we can go up against them.”
The Conestoga match-up proved a real barnburner. Neshaminy scored early when Jackie Ziegler hooked up with Deanna Lebotesis. The host Pioneers tied the game in the 37th minute when Nia Scott finished off a corner kick. Two overtime periods produced no scoring and set up a penalty kick situation, won by the Lady Skins, 3-0.
Where goalies are usually at a disadvantage in such moments, Riley finds them exciting. “I like the pressure of being in the goal. I like thinking about the impact of the game. One mistake in the goal can cost the game or you can make the save and win the game. I was always good at catching things. I used to play basketball because I had good hands. When soccer came around, I really wanted to get into the goal and see what I could become.”
Riley, certainly proved her worth. Having already chalked up seven saves prior to penalty kicks, she blanketed the Conestoga shooters. Her efforts earned Neshaminy a shot at the fourth seeded Unionville team in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
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