LANGHORNE – Defending Suburban One National League co-champion Neshaminy came into its tenth league duel of the season unbeaten while opponent William Tennent entered the matchup at 2-5 in conference play.
Suffice it to say Thursday afternoon, Oct. 8 on Senior Day, the Lady Skins departed the battle in the same condition while the Lady Panthers fell to 2-6.
While two seniors – Maria Palmieri and Emily Curran, who scored twice – staked Neshaminy to a 3-0 halftime lead, it was a junior – right-side forward Mia Sexton – who pushed the score to its 6-0 final score with a natural hat trick in the second half.
Sexton scored three different ways after the intermission – on a slapper from the left side of the circle, on the same type of shot from the right side and finally, on a shot she top-shelved on a backhander.
As a team, the Skins out-cornered Tennent, 31-0, while outshooting the opponent, 26-0.
“We all made sure we were pumped up for the game,” said Sexton. “We made sure that we came out as hard as we could and got as many goals as we could.
“In the second half, we were more selective. We made sure there was always an option from the top of the circle for a better shot, instead of just small shots in the slot.”
With nine seniors on the team including four who are committed to Division I hockey programs, Neshaminy is determined to re-claim the SOL National crown this fall.
“We were excited to play – all the seniors were really hyped,” said senior forward Marlena Koellner. “We came out ready to play and work together because we knew it was a special day for us and we wanted to capitalize on it.”
With four league matchups left, the Skins might just do it.
Standing in the way is second-place Council Rock South (9-1), which kept pace with a 5-2 victory over Abington. The last time Neshaminy faced the Golden Hawks, a CR South penalty stroke goal in the final minute of the first half put the Hawks ahead, 1-0 at the half.
Palmieri’s goal with 12:37 remaining in regulation sent the dual to overtime and a goal by junior Emily Alexis (4G, 4A) – off a feed from Sexton – put the win in the Skins’ column.
While she didn’t have a whole lot to do to get the goose egg in this one, senior goalkeeper Haille Sheppard recorded her ninth shutout of the season.
While the Panthers got the ball down the field a couple of times late in the second half, Neshaminy did everything it could to send the ball back the other way.
“I think it’s always good not to let them get a shot,” explained Sexton. “As it got later in the game, we saw there were no shots so we just wanted to keep that up.”
Five minutes into the game, on the Skins sixth corner of the first half, Palmieri put Neshaminy on the board, converting a feed from senior Marlena Koellner. Less than 10 minutes later, Curran converted a cross from Lauren Duckenfield (6 goals) before pushing the score to 3-0 with a goal tallied off a feed from Sexton.
Captained by senior Amanda Blum (3G, 2A), who is committed to Quinnipiac, the Skins’ offense is led by Christen Pennington (Villanova), who has notched 12 goals and 19 assists including two vs. the Panthers in this one. Committed to Drexel, Palmieri is next with 12 goals and nine assists.
“All the seniors – they really control the field and make sure we’re all working as a team and there’s good passing and good sportsmanship,” commented Sexton, who has 10 goals and a dozen helpers.
Quality non-league wins for Neshaminy include an early season 1-0 triumph over Owen J. Roberts, a 2-1 victory over Mount St. Joseph’s and a 3-1 win over Perk Valley. Like just about all of the Skins’ battles, the defense came to play.
“The defense has really stepped up and we work as a team,” explained Koellner, who committed to Sacred Heart (Conn.) in May. “We’re a really well-rounded team so it doesn’t matter where the ball is on the field, we know how to work it.”
Next week, Neshaminy has its work cut out for it with CR North in a road matchup Monday, Oct. 12, at Pennsbury Wednesday, Oct. 14 before coming home to face Truman Friday, Oct. 16.
Of course, the match that everyone is waiting for is the Oct. 20 rematch with the Golden Hawks and Koellner knows it.
“Both teams know that it’s going to be a great game because we’re so evenly matched,” said Koellner. “Everyone gets super intense because we know that it’s our biggest rivalry and that just makes us want to win even more.
“South feels the same way so that makes it even more intense.”
Last season, the Skins went 12-2 in conference to earn a share of the SOL National crown. In the postseason, they earned a No. 16 seed, defeated 17th-seeded Plymouth-Whitemarsh before falling to top-seeded and eventual D-1 champion Unionville.
This year, Neshaminy is hoping for the type of storybook season had by the defending district champion Indians in 2014.
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Neshaminy 6, William Tennent 0
(Oct. 8 at Neshaminy)
FIRST-HALF GOALS: Maria Palmieri, Emily Curran 2
SECOND-HALF GOALS: Mia Sexton 3
ASSISTS: Koellner 2, Lauren Duckenfield, Mia Sexton, Christen Pennington 2
SHOTS: N — 26; WT — 0
CORNER OPPORTUNITIES: N — 31; WT — 0
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