BENSALEM – Sometimes, teams just need a jump start to propel them down a winning road. The Neshaminy boys soccer team got just such a boost when they downed a red hot Bensalem team 2-1 on Oct. 1.
After winning three straight Suburban One league (SOL) National Division championships, coach Tim Foley’s charges were marked men coming into the 2015 campaign. Though having lost several players to graduation, the Redskins still had plenty of firepower starting with midfielders Dylan McDonald, Dan Grinrod and Eric Schaffer. For his part, McDonald was an all-SOL selection and recorded 10 goals last season.
The early going, however, proved rocky for the defending champs. After downing Bensalem 2-1 in the second game of the season, Neshaminy went on a five-game winless streak. The span did include close one-goal losses to William Tennent and Council Rock South, and a 1-1 tie with CR North.
The potential certainly existed but needed unleashing. The second match-up with Bensalem could supply just such a spark.
Starting goalie Val Scarsellato recognized the game’s importance. “We knew it could change our season. One win can boost a team’s confidence. That would be a great win for us.”
Val had every bit of confidence that his teammates would catch fire. “We have a lot of talent and we just need to release the energy and come to every game psyched and ready to play.”
Mother Nature did her best to dampen Neshaminy’s aroused spirits as she drenched the Owls’ stadium in a cold chilly rain. Playing on the sloppy pitch required extra caution.
In Val’s estimation, “It was a really slick surface and you have to be aware of your footing so you don’t make a mistake. It’s hard for everyone on the field especially for the goalie because the ball is skipping at you and you really have to know to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Neshaminy struck first when 20 minutes into the first half, Jack McCourt took a pass from Dan Grinrod and shot the ball past a diving Greg Citino. Eleven minutes into the second half, Neshaminy’s Kyle Dennis was pulled down as he made a run at the Bensalem goal. Dylan McDonald was quick to convert the penalty kick, giving Neshaminy a 2-0 lead.
Though the action gained in intensity, the Redskins managed to hold on for a 2-1 victory. For Val, Neshaminy had found their needed spark.
“I think the energy really came out against Bensalem. The key to the game was the 50/50 balls. In the past, we’ve not been going into challenges and have been backing away from them. But winning six kicks and punts and challenging for the ball showed we played with drive.”
The postgame joy went a long way in warming the chilled Neshaminy players. “It felt amazing. It was a really great feeling. Being 1-6-1 at the time, this game brought a real feeling of turning things around. It felt great.”
Val certainly did his part to assure the victory. Down 2-1, Bensalem staged a furious rally to try and extend their personal four-game win streak. With minutes left on the clock, the Owls’ Matt Corbet launched himself at a head-ball in front of Neshaminy’s goal. Val was a step quicker as he soared by Corbet and punched the ball away from the net.
The senior keeper showed the savvy and decisiveness that are so essential for good goalie play. “Sometimes, it’s stressful and it’s really hard to make decisions. The toughest part was learning my angles. You have to judge where you are. Through experience, you get the hang of it and you get those angles down.”
With the 2-1 victory, Neshaminy may have finally gotten the boost they needed as they head into the second half of the 2015 campaign.
Neshaminy 2, Bensalem 1
(Oct. 1 at Bensalem)
GOALS — Jack McCourt, Dylan McDonald
ASSISTS — Dan Grinrod