Council Rock South keeps its cool, nips Neshaminy

NEWTOWN — Most athletic seasons have a defining moment, either a key game or stretch that tests a team’s mettle. How they fare during this crucial test often dictates the success of their season

Council Rock South’s girls’ hockey team faced just such a challenge on Sept. 19 when they met rival Neshaminy on the Walt Snyder Stadium turf field. Both teams were battling to stay in contention in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Division title race. Neshaminy was a game up on the Golden Hawks. Both trailed undefeated CR North by two games.

Katie Bagdon, senior captain and midfielder for South, recognized the game’s importance.

“It would have been really bad to lose that game. We knew that if we won, we would have been tied with Pennsbury and Neshaminy and we’d be in good standing in the league. Also, we always go back and forth with Neshaminy. They’re always a tough team.’

Adding to the pressure, the reigning National Division champs were completing the toughest week of their 2014 campaign. On Monday, Sept. 15, they fell to archrival CR North 4-3 in overtime. On Sept. 17, they succumbed to an awakened Pennsbury team. Another loss would not only give them negative momentum, but it would also put them in fourth place with seven games left in the regular season.

Golden Hawks coach Lisa Belz offered some pregame inspiration.

“She read a quote from Derek Jeter which said there may be people with more talent than you but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.’

South’s hustle and spirited play showed they took the Jeter quote to heart. Unfortunately, a great shot by Neshaminy’s Abby Alexis gave the visitors a 1-0 lead going into halftime. The Hawks didn’t panic, however.

“We went down 1-0 but we didn’t feel like we were out of the game. Abby Alexis scored on an amazing shot. We all looked at each other and said there’s nothing we do about that except score two goals and win.’

To win, the Hawks needed to play their own brand of hockey.

“We’re pretty confident in the way we play. We need to play our game. We’re aggressive but patient. We’re always trying to get to the ball but we don’t play haphazardly. We don’t play dangerously by swinging sticks around.’

The strategy worked. Halfway through the second half, Katie scored for South, taking a corner pass and zipping the ball by Neshaminy goaltender Haille Sheppard. Paige Schmid tallied a few minutes later, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead.

Holding off a frenzied last-minute rush by Neshaminy, the Hawks captured the vital 2-1 victory.

“The key was that even though we went down, we kept in the game and got two goals. After the game, we felt awesome. It was so good to get that win under our belt.’

Katie certainly played a large part in the clutch victory. As center-midfielder, she controlled a good deal of the action in the center of the field, dishing off passes to her teammates and thwarting many a Neshaminy run.

“I’m the main distributor of the ball. I am the playmaker, I guess. I try to work the ball outside so we can take it down the sideline.’

Equally important, she showed real leadership in keeping her teammates positive.

“My biggest responsibility is to keep the team motivated. We had had a tough week. We had two really tough losses. I thought all the seniors did a good job of refocusing the team so we could get that big win.’

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