Council Rock South, Neshaminy tune up for districts (GALLERY)

NEWTOWN – At this juncture in the regular season, teams play for pride and power ratings. The two often go hand and hand. Recently, the Neshaminy and Council Rock South girls field hockey squads did battle in their league finale Oct. 20 at Walt Snyder Stadium. With final standings already determined, the two frontrunners used the game as a heated tuneup for the upcoming districts set to begin Monday, Oct. 26.

Julia Pero, starting senior goalie for South, knew the game carried great significance.

“It was very important. We knew that would boost our power ranking if we won. We were looking for that higher spot. They have a couple of great players on offense and we had to mark them closely. They also have great shots across the cage so we had to stop that.”

The great players that the Golden Hawks had to thwart included Christen Pennington, Maria Palmieri and Mia Sexton. Pennington is the second leading scorer in Lower Bucks with 19 goals. Palmieri and Sexton rank fifth and sixth with 14 and 12 goals, apiece.

As goalie, Julia could certainly respect the firepower she faced when taking on Neshaminy. South hoped to counter with its own balanced attack. “We try to use combinations and get the ball down the field as best we can. Our field is balanced. I feel we have great defenders and great offensive players.”


When the ball enters enemy territory, it often falls in the capable hands of Caroline McGovern. Last year, the all-state performer set the CR South scoring record with 23 goals. She has already bettered that single season mark, finding the back of the cage 31 times.

With that much offense roaming the field, one might expect a scoring avalanche. Yet both squads are equally tenacious on defense. In their first meeting back on September 29, South held a precarious 1-0 lead at halftime. Neshaminy rallied back on goals by Maria Palmieri and Emily Alexis to capture a 2-1 overtime victory.

Despite the loss, Julia felt this game was a turning point for the Golden Hawks. “Our first game against Neshaminy was when we knew we were up there and good. We went into overtime with them and that boosted our self-esteem.”

The second time around, Julia knew that South wanted to take command early, “We just needed to score first. That was our aim.”

The strategy that did not pan out. With 19:05 remaining in the first half, the Redskins’ Lauren Duckenfield deflected a Christen Pennington assist into the cage for the go ahead score. Maria Palmieri iced the game for Neshaminy, scoring a goal with 24:18 remaining in regulation play.

Though disappointed over the loss, South’s spirited play certainly left them with an upbeat feeling about the district playoffs. “We all felt we came out strong, especially on our senior night. We played well but just couldn’t connect at the right time when we needed to.”

Julia shares her teammates’ hope that the connections will happen in postseason play. They are presently working to make that happen.

“Neshaminy was our last league game. Playoffs start Monday. We have practices over the weekend to prepare as much as we can and see what strategies work the best. If we know the team and know what they do, our practice will focus on that. Regardless, we will play our game.”

For Julia, her personal strategic plan is simple. Do not let the opposition score. “What I like best about being the goalie is being back there to stop the goal. I want to help my team out the best I can.”

Julia recognizes the requirements necessary for her to be her best. “As a goalie, you have to be able to react to the ball and be able to get up fast because when you dive it’s hard to get up with all the pads on. You also really need to communicate with your team. I’ll tell them who is open and remind them to carry the ball out wide to get their girl out away from the goal.”

Julia feels the Golden Hawks are well versed in the communication department.  “We all get along well. We try to communicate as much as possible. Everyone played very well against Neshaminy. We all came out strong but it didn’t turn out the way we expected.”

South is determined to reverse the outcomes in the districts. They have shown in their two encounters with Neshaminy that they have the potential to stay with the best team in the area.

The Hawks are seeded at No. 18 and will play a road matchup Oct. 26 at No. 15 Perkiomen Valley in the opening round of the District 1 Class AAA tournament. Seeded No. 4, Neshaminy has earned a first round bye and will not begin its postseason until Wednesday, Oct. 28. Defending D-1 champ Unionville is the top seed in the tourney.

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