Successful seasons don’t just happen. They are the end product of testing, learning and then performing. In this relatively young campaign, the Neshaminy girl’s hockey team has shown a good grasp of this time-honored formula.
Neshaminy opened the season with tough losses to two highly ranked hockey programs. After bowing to Owen J Roberts, they lost a heartbreaker 2-1 to Central Bucks East in overtime. The ‘Skins, however, used the defeats to their advantage.
Head coach Jamie Pinto summed up this seemingly paradoxical situation. “Starting off playing against such strong teams really showed us what we could do this year. It shows how well you will do for the rest of the season.”
As their recent winning streak indicates the ‘Skins obviously learned from their mistakes and capitalized on their strengths. They have won four consecutive games against Suburban One League foes, Bensalem, Council Rock South, Harry Truman, and Council Rock North.
Coach Pinto feels the team has really come together. “We really try to focus on offense and defense in practice and when the girls get in a game they are really clicking. Our mids do a really nice job. They’re supporting the forwards and coming back to help on defense. We’re focusing on being a unit. We’re all attacking together and all dropping back to defend. They play together well on the field no matter where the ball is.”
Though a rather youthful squad that features only five seniors on its roster, coach Pinto feels Neshaminy has all the essential ingredients. “Our captains have done a great job leading the girls. They are Kayla Connelly, Sophie Schardt and Tori Young. The under classmen Peyton Richie and Jamie Pennington are very skilled, smart players and help lead the team as juniors. Our goalie Maddie Tieman is a junior and she does a really nice job.”
The September 15th encounter with Council Rock North showed just how well the ‘Skins had gelled as a team. The two schools entered the early season showdown with identical 3-0 records. A victory would give either team sole possession of first place in the highly competitive National Division. More importantly it would serve as a tone setter.
Coach Pinto recognized the games importance. “It was huge for us. Every game is huge for us in the league because you never know what can happen on any given day. It’s important for us to come out strong and play every game as if it’s a championship game. We needed to work together and play our best and set a tone for the rest of the season.”
The team accomplished all of their coach’s goals. Neshaminy got on the scoreboard with 21:16 gone in the first half when Sophia Parillo scored off of a Peyton Ritchey assist. Ritchey then scored the first of her three goals midway through the half. Council Rock retaliated when Sarah Everett scored with 7:47 remaining in the half. With time expiring in the half Ritchie found the back of the Indian net on a corner to increase the Redskins lead to 3-1. Ritchey would ice the victory with her third tally with 33 seconds left in the game.
Coach Pinto praised the whole team for the victory giving special note to several players. “Peyton (Ritchey) played great. Her speed and her stick skills were most evident. The goals she scored were beautiful goals. She works well with Jamie (Pennington). Sophie (Schardt) played tough defense. She’s our center back so she usually goes against the opposing team’s strongest player and she does a great job shutting them down.”
Kayla Connelly provided the overall leadership spark that helped ignite the team effort. “She’s been a great leader this year. She’s very versatile. She plays forward and she plays mid. She’s a strong player and we know we can move her anywhere and she’ll contribute in whatever position she’s playing.”
The ’Skins are definitely quick learners. Though young, they have already established themselves as a force in the Suburban One League.