FAIRLESS HILLS – Trailing first-place Neshaminy by three games in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference, the Falcons threw everything they had at the Skins.
Playing Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 14) on their home pitch under dark, cloudy skies and a brisk and blustery wind, Pennsbury poured it on strong, especially early on, outshooting the visitors 7-3 in the first half and out-gaining them on corner opportunities, 8-1.
Unfortunately for the home crowd fans, the Skins had Haille Sheppard protecting their cage. The senior bound for Arcadia University next year stopped all seven shots that came her way for her 11th shutout of the season.
Just ask Falcons co-captain and midfielder Margeurite Salamone about Sheppard.
“One of the shots that I took, I couldn’t believe she stopped,” exclaimed Salamone. “She came out and dove to the side and just got a piece of it.
“She was amazing.
“When you’re going against a good goalkeeper, you really gotta pull it around and we just couldn’t do that today.”
Offensively, senior Christen Pennington (Villanova) registered three of Neshaminy’s four goals in the game including two that staked the Skins to a 2-0 halftime lead.
After getting her team on the board with an opening goal in the first two minutes, Pennington’s second goal was a slow-moving bouncer and seemed to handcuff Pennsbury senior goalkeeper Kate Faulcon at the 16:42 mark of the first half.
After the break, with sophomore Michelle Deodati in goal, Neshaminy scored two more with senior Maria Palmieri (Drexel) poking home a wide-angle shot she took from the left side of the box that landed in the far right side of the cage. For the game, the Skins had just three corner-ops including two in the second half but they scored on one of those with Pennington taking a feed from Palmieri to net herself a hat trick.
“Our goalkeeper came up big in this game and we were taking shots and they were going in,” stated Neshaminy head coach Cate Koczynski. “That doesn’t happen all the time but it looked good today.”
Coming off a two-game stretch in which they nipped Council Rock North 1-0 in overtime (Oct. 12) and lost to SOL Continental Conference leader CB West (Oct. 13), the Skins may have just come out somewhat flat-footed.
“We came off two tough games in two days and I think we just came out a little hesitant,” added Koczynski. “We definitely adjusted during halftime and came out stronger in the second half.”
Indeed. Neshaminy played a much more even second half, with the shots: 5-4: favor, the Falcons and the corner-ops at two apiece.
“They definitely put a lot of pressure on us today but we worked really hard – our defense,” said Sheppard. “Even though we didn’t always have it at times, we still contained it and we kept it together.
“It was a great win today.”
A goalkeeper since middle school, this is Sheppard’s sixth season in front of the cage.
“You have to be aggressive; you have to want it,” said Sheppard. “You have to want the ball and you can’t be passive.”
Sheppard wasn’t passive at all in this game, challenging the Pennsbury shooters every chance she got.
“You have to put pressure on the players coming in,” explained Sheppard. “If you don’t they have wide open spaces to shoot.”
There can be no hesitation, said the keeper.
“You just have to know when to come out and get it,” she said. “Hesitation messes you up. If you think twice, (the ball) might get by you.”
Still, Sheppard gives props to the offense that puts the points on the board when they are needed. The hat trick by Pennington gives her 17 for the season and she scored the team’s only goal in both the battle with Rock North and the one with CB West. The assist she recorded on the Skins’ third goal in this game was her 20th.
“We definitely wanted it today,’ said Sheppard. “This is always a big game for us and we came out strong. Even though we were down a couple of times, we came back because we still wanted it.
“The desire was still there so we worked with whatever we had and we got it done.”
Neshaminy entered the game coming off a 2-1 loss to CB West in regulation. In that one, a Pennington strike put the Skins up only five minutes into the contest. But the Bucks rallied with a goal 20 minutes later by Bryn Boylan and won it on a goal by Cadera Smith midway through the second half to remain unbeaten overall on the season at 14-0.
Ironically, the Falcons, now tied for third place in the SOL National at 8-4, also lost to CB West and just recently. In a battle that took place Oct. 10 at home, Pennsbury lead 3-1 in the second half on goals by Missy Frankil, Kate Chesney and Nell Webber. But Boylan netted three goals in less than seven minutes time to help keep the Bucks unbeaten in a 4-3 win for CB West.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, Neshaminy – still unbeaten in the SOL at 12-0 – hosts Truman on Friday then wraps it up at CR South on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Pennsbury hosts the Golden Hawks Friday then travels to William Tennent on Tuesday.
NOTES: The District One-AAA field hockey tournament begins Monday, Oct. 26. After winning a district opener in 2014, Neshaminy lost to eventual champion Unionville 2-0 in round two. CR North was a D-1 quarterfinalist and PIAA qualifier last season.
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Neshaminy 4, Pennsbury 0
(Oct. 14 at Pennsbury)
FIRST HALF GOALS: Christen Pennington 2
SECOND HALF GOALS: Maria Palmieri, Pennington
ASSISTS: Emily Alexis, Pennington, Palmieri
SHOTS: P — 12; N — 7
CORNER-OPS: P — 10; N — 3