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Neshaminy blanks Unionville to clinch state berth

EAST MARLBOROUGH >> One of the oldest cliches in soccer came to life at Unionville High School on Saturday: If you bury your chances, you win. If you don’t, you have problems.

That predicament plagued the Indians in their District 1 Class 4A girls soccer quarterfinal against Neshaminy on Saturday. Unionville had chances go begging, while the Redskins received a second-half goal and a big save on a penalty kick to preserve a 1-0 victory.

Neshaminy, the No. 12 seed, heads into the semifinals to face No. 17 Quakertown on Wednesday. The Indians (17-3) will have to take the long way to reach the PIAA championships. They will start that task Wednesday in the consolations.

“You gotta finish your chances,” said Unionville coach Joe Ratasiewicz. “In the first half, we had a bunch of opportunities to score. And when you don’t, the pressure mounts as the game progresses. Which is what happened.”

Unionville did hold a 6-1 advantage in shots over the first 40 minutes. Their best chance came with four minutes left when a long ball bounced high and Sam Ciccarelli headed it off onrushing goalie Riley Spingler. The rebound caromed off Ciccarelli and rolled tantalizingly wide of the right post.

“They definitely dominated the first half,” Neshaminy coach Chelsea Lovelace said. “Unionville came out ready to play and we didn’t come out ready to play the first half. It was good to see the girls collect themselves at halftime and get back to the way we’re used to playing soccer.”

It took a little bit after the restart, but the Redskins slowly started to get a foothold into the game as Unionville seemed to wilt a little bit. More and more of the play started to happen in the Unionville end, and shots started to follow.

Neshaminy started a little four-shot flurry, with junior Michaela Boyd accounting for two of them, one of them testing Unionville keeper Katie Borlie, who had to dive to her left to make the save.

The breakthrough came with a little under 20 minutes left, a fortunate ricochet found the feet of sophomore midfielder Emily Tanta at the top of the 18-yard box. Her shot got through Borlie into the net for what proved to be the lone goal of the game.

“It was a shot that deflected to our right midfielder and she followed it in,” said Lovelace. “It was a great finish.”

The forced deficit seemed to help flick the switch back on for Indians. They started pressuring again, and nearly found an immediate response as Claire Matson’s shot went wide of the left post.

The crucial point of the match came just as the clock hit the eight-minute mark. Good work by Jackie Hug resulted in a penalty kick after she was brought down in the area.

Matson stepped up to the spot, but her kick didn’t have all the power she wanted behind it, and Spingler dove to her left to make the save and keep the advantage.

“Her hips kind of turned toward where she wanted to shoot at the last minute, so that’s how I knew she was going to go that way,” said Spingler. “Thankfully, she didn’t hit it that hard.”

“Penalty kicks are pressure,” said Ratesiewicz. “And we leave it up to the players. Whoever feels the best should take the kick. So, I let them decide. She usually makes them. The keeper made a really quick move and guessed the right way.”

The Neshaminy defense did its best imitation of a NHL group in the last part of the games, blocking a number of potentially dangerous shots from Unionville, keeping them from getting to Spingler.

“I think we’ll be alright,” said Ratesiecz on his team’s ability to bounce back. “Our players believe they should have won.”

Neshaminy 2, Unionville 1
Neshaminy 0 1 – 0
Unionville 0 0 – 0
Neshaminy goal: Tantala.
Goalie saves: Spingler (N) 5, Borlie (U) 2.

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