PHOENIXVILLE >> It’s been four years since Neshaminy was Pennsylvania’s state champion.
The team’s current coaching staff contains the only holdovers from that title squad. The current crop of seniors were in eighth grade at the time.
Indications are, however, the Redskins are working through a lack of experience at that level in their latest run through the state ranks. They took another big step toward the “big game” Saturday as they edged Governor Mifflin, 2-1, in a PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal game at Phoenixville High School.
The District 1 third seed did all its scoring in the first half, in the process keeping the Mustangs off the scoreboard until almost 15 minutes into the second. Stout defense down the stretch proved key to Neshaminy making the lead hold up.
“We told them to be smart all over the field,” head coach Chelsea Lovelace said afterward. “We could push them more.”
The effort was sufficient, though, to move the ‘Skins (18-6-1) to the bracket’s semifinal round. They will face District 1 fourth seed Owen J. Roberts, a 3-0 winner over Central Dauphin, Tuesday at a site and time to be announced. Neshaminy and OJR met in the District 1 third-place game, a 3-2 ‘Skins win.
“Our back line all season long,” Lovelace cited as key to Neshaminy’s solid stretch run. “We’ve relied on it a lot.”
Gov. Mifflin (19-7-1), in the meantime, closes out a 2017 season in which it worked hard to achieve its level of success. The Mustangs had won 10 of their last 11 games, the lone setback 3-2 to Conestoga Valley in last weekend’s district title game.
“I always say we don’t define a season by one loss,” Mustang head coach Ed Deren Jr. said. “I’m proud we got here, with the adversity and injuries we faced.”
Neshaminy, outshooting Mifflin by an 11-2 count along the way, got rolling with Gina Sexton’s straight-on goal with four minutes of the game’s start. Jackie Ziegler set up her teammate’s from her midfield position.
The Redskins bolstered their lead with 10:36 remaining in the first half, Brooke Mullin adding another straight-on goal to give Neshaminy a 2-0 lead at the half. It proved to be enough to secure the win even while GM closed the gap just under 12 minutes in the second half.
‘Skins goalkeeper Riley Spingler drew a yellow card after clearing a free ball around the 28:17 mark. With Victoria Smith minding the nets while Spingler was on the sidelines for five minutes, Mifflin’s Gillian Maack converted off a corner kick from Hailey Payne to make the score the ultimate 2-1 margin.
“We talked to the girls, told them to be ready in the second half,” Lovelace said. “They (GM) came back from being down a goal in their last game (Nov. 7 vs. Williamsport) to forcing overtime. Our girls did a good job.”
The Mustangs tried to convert corners at the 14:07 and 5:25 marks of the second half, only to be turned away by Neshaminy.
“From the start, we didn’t get overworked,” Lovelace said. “We came out and played the full 80 minutes.”
Mifflin, which came out of September with a 6-4-1 record but caught fire late in the season that featured a win over perennial District 3 power Cumberland Valley in districts amidst a nine-game winning streak, has a large number of underclassmen listed on its varsity roster. Of the 44 players, nine — headed by Payne — are seniors.
“Regardless of how sad they are now, I’m proud to be their coach,” Deren Jr. said.