LANGHORNE – The movie “The Wizard of Oz” is all about believing in yourself and working together as a team. The Neshaminy girls soccer team has employed both qualities in their own trek down the Keystone State Yellow Brick Road.
Goalie Riley Spingler aptly summed up Neshaminy’s magic formula as they take aim at the PIAA State Championship game.
“I think we are all really starting to get together and really gel together. We really know each other and our limitations and strengths. We know what works well and how we can help each other.”
Having lost a heartbreaking 1-0 battle with Spring-Ford in the District One quarterfinals, Neshaminy found itself the district’s third-seeded team in the PIAA bracket. Riley and her teammates knew that each game in states would present an increasingly difficult challenge.
“We really took each game, one game at a time. We focused on winning each game we we’re playing at that time. We hoped they would all add up and soon we would be playing in the state championship. We had to play together and play our best.”
The first state challenge came in the form of District 11 champ Parkland. Neshaminy struck early when sophomore forward Kristen Curley redirected a corner from senior Jackie Ziegler into the enemy net with only eight minutes gone on the clock. Senior Nicole Palmer closed out the first half scoring when she headed another corner from Ziegler in the 39th minute.
The 2-1 victory set up a state quarterfinal round battle with an aggressive Governor Mifflin team. Riley knew, “The competition kept rising every game.”
Neshaminy was definitely up for the challenge. They scored their first goal four minutes into the game. Sophomore Gina Sexton blasted a shot into the bottom right corner of the net to beat Mifflin’s diving goalie. Twenty six minutes later, Brooke Mullin darted between two Mifflin defenders and found the back of the net for an unassisted tally.
The 2-1 conquest meant the Redskins were only one game away from a crack at the state title. It also meant taking on a familiar foe in Owen J. Roberts, the team they had beaten 3-2 in the district consolation game. In that contest Neshaminy relied on two goals by Michaela Boyd and a solo score by Ziegler to capture third place.
Riley knew this game bore dual importance. “We were actually very excited the day before the game. We knew what we had to do. We wanted to focus on scoring first and not letting them score. We wanted to put the game away and get to the states. We really wanted to play OJ again because we played them in the district consolations. We wanted to play them again so we would know we were the better team.”
Neshaminy scored first when Ziegler performed her usual corner magic and found Genna Obringer, who headed the ball past the Wildcats’ goalie with 18 minutes gone on the clock. After Owen J. Roberts managed to tie the game, Mullin took a pass from Sexton and buried the ball in the right side of the net with only 23 seconds remaining in the half.
From there, the Skins’ defense then held off the Wildcats’ normally potent offense, giving Neshaminy the 2-1 victory and assuring them a trip to Hershey.
“We were all very excited. It was kind of surreal. We were actually going to Hershey. We knew we worked for this and we all knew we worked for each other. We all really came together as a team. We’re going to Hershey because of each other.”
Neshaminy will be facing the very high scoring District 7 runner-up, Norwin High School. In the state playoffs, Norwin has outscored their three opponents by a 10-0 margin.
Riley knows the Skins’ defense will have to be sharp. “We know a little about them. They scored a lot of goals during the season. I think it was 106 and they let in only 10. They have very fast offenders. It will be difficult for our defenders so we need to focus on that.”
Neshaminy will definitely not back down from the challenge. “I think we are all very excited for this game and we’re really proud of how we got here. We’re just trying to focused on finishing it and winning it for each other and for our seniors. We are trying to bring our school pride.”
Riley does not have to worry about the latter. Every Neshaminy fan is already extremely proud of this spirited team.
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