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Neshaminy off to a strong start (PHOTO GALLERY)

LANGHORNE – With a veteran roster featuring two returning all-state players, Neshaminy certainly ranked high on every preseason prognosticator’s top teams list. This past week proved such expectations were well-founded as Neshaminy downed William Tennent 3-0 and then Council Rock North 4-0.

Marlena Koellner, who along with fellow senior Christen Pennington earned all-state second team honors in 2014, felt this was Neshaminy’s year. “We’re very experienced and have high expectations for ourselves. We want to be SOL champs this year and we really want to make it to states.”

Marlena’s optimism stems from the presence of several upperclassmen who have been together for three years. “We’re very balanced on offense and defense. Also, we play as a team. So having players in all areas of the field really helps. We are used to playing with each other. We are not trying to get used to new people around us.”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW NESHAMINY-WILLIAM TENNENT PHOTO GALLERY

In addition to Marlena and Christen, the core of seniors includes Amanda Blum, Maria Palmieri and goalie Haille Sheppard. Last year, the girls in red and white finished with a 12-2 league mark, tying them with Council Rock North for co-champs of the highly competitive Suburban One League (SOL) National Division.

The games against Tennent and North showed they have every intention of gaining sole possession of the league crown this year. Marlena knew spirits soared high going into the Tennent game. “We were really excited for the game because it was a night game and we don’t have many of those at Neshaminy. But we knew it was a tough team. They play a different style than we do.”

Though moving the ball well around the field, Neshaminy could not find the back of the goal until Elena Curran scored 22 minutes into the game. “The key to winning that game was definitely finishing. We know we can get the ball down the field but it took us a while to light the fire and get everyone excited. But once we scored, we felt we had them.”

Two second-half goals by Maria Palmieri and Emily Curran iced the 3-0 win, a victory coach Koczynski’s charges viewed as a learning experience. “We definitely were satisfied that we won. I think we could have done better. It wasn’t our best game. We’re not used to turf because we play on grass. We had to adjust to that. It’s a much faster game.”

Neshaminy did not wait long to improve upon their performance. Two days later, they put on a dominating display against archrival Council Rock North. Marlena realized this matchup could be a big factor on the season’s final outcome.

“That was definitely one of our most important games of the season. It sets the tone for us because we are rivals and every year, it is a tough game and that is how we played. We really executed and played to our full potential. We’re usually not used to that big a gap on the scoreboard when we play North. We were really on.”

The game statistics reflect the total dominance Neshaminy displayed. They had 21 shots on goal and earned 13 corners. Council Rock did not get one shot on goal all day and they failed to get a corner until there was a little under 12 minutes left in the game. Christen Pennington, Abby Geisler, Maria Palmieri and Amanda Blum scored for the home team.

Marlena, who is tri-captain along with Christen Pennington and Amanda Blum, felt very satisfied with her team’s performance. “I felt really great. I felt the whole team put in their best effort. It felt really good because players from that team also play on my club team (MYSTX). It is a rivalry but we are also friends. It felt great that we could execute and play to our full potential in a game that we knew would be hard.”

“Executing” for Marlena includes roaming the entire field. “I play center offensive midfield, which is basically playing the center of the field. I push up to the attackers. My responsibility is to feed the ball to my offenders. I can also take my own shot if I have one. I also have to get back on defense.”

With skilled and selfless players such as Marlena in charge, Neshaminy certainly seems capable of having a banner season. Their 5-0 record is a great start!

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