Solid athletes possess talent as well as adaptability. They have the requisite skills and are more than willing to apply them to whatever their team needs dictate. Kelli Kowalick, senior for the Neshaminy girls’ team, is just such a stellar athlete.
During her sophomore and junior year on the varsity Kelli served as the team’s prime defender, a position she relished. In both those season her exploits earned her the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Her junior year she was named to the All Suburban One League second team, mainly for her rebounding and guarding the opponent’s key player.
A selfless team player, Kelli loved her role. “I’ve always taken pride in my defense. I love playing offense but defense is more fun to play. I love getting rebounds. I love the feeling of stopping someone or guarding someone who is better than you because it makes you better.”
This year, however, team needs dictated that Kelli take a more prominent real in the Redskins offensive output. With the graduation of such key point getters as Brooke Mullin and Alison Harvey, Kelli knew she would have to adapt. “Obviously there’s a change this year because we lost a couple of our starters so there is a real hole we have to fill. We lost Brooke and Ally who were fantastic players.”
Kelli accepted the challenge quite well. “This year, though my focus is still on defense, it has shifted offensively and I’m trying to fill some of the hole that was left last year scoringwise. I think this year is one to grow from and test other things in my game offensively.”
Kelli appears to be passing the test with flying colors. In a recent match-up with Council Rock South she led all scorers with 18 points. In addition to pounding the paint inside, Kelli also stepped back and nailed two shots from beyond the arc to help propel the ‘Skins to a 56-20 win. Two nights later, in another league clash with Harry Truman, Kelli once again led all scorers with 17 points as Neshaminy came away with a lopsided 60-17 victory.
Kelli’ offensive prowess stems from her ability to play several positions. “On my AAU team I’m more of a small forward or bigger guard. Our high school team, however, lacks height. I’m one of the tallest people on the team so I have to play the role of post which really isn’t my position but I’m filling what our team needs. I’m a guard at heart but I can play on the outside and inside. That helps my game out because it makes it harder to guard. You can’t put a big on an outside person and you can’t put a guard on a post.”
Kelli knows she is not the only one rising to meet the challenge of repeating last year’s great season. “We have four seniors who are starting. We’ve all stepped up to the challenge and adding to our game. We’re all increasing our point scoring. We are really coming together as a team. We have people who played less minutes last year who are stepping up like Sidney Tryon. She’s playing amazing with her rebounding. I really feel we’re going to have a real run.”
Helping the younger players in their transition to varsity, Kelli and the other three captains Kristin Curley, Olivia Scotti and Emily Tantala serve as mentors and role models. “I’m happy to be a captain. We have a lot of new players coming into our system this year. We have a couple freshmen on the varsity team. Some got moved up and are getting minutes they never got before. As a captain I’m trying to help the young kids, guide them and teach them the plays, help them offensively and defensively, and make them better and make the program stronger for the future.”
The future looks most promising with the seniors wanting to try and duplicate last season’s performance. “We really want to get back to where we were last year. It was heartbreaking to get so close to the state championship. As a team we want to get back to that point.”
Neshaminy is off to a great start. They presently are riding atop the Suburban One League National Division with an unblemished 3-0 mark. Their overall record is 6-2 with the only two loses coming in close games with perennial power houses North Penn and Cardinal O’Hara.
Kelli feels that two games in specific showed the Redskins starting to develop the necessary team chemistry. “Of the games we played so far, our best was against Central Bucks East. We really shared the ball in that game and dealt with the pressure. Also, the key in our game against Council Rock South was playing together as a team. We played Bensalem before and we really didn’t share the ball. We didn’t move the ball on offense. Coming into South we wanted to play better as a team.”
With Kelli and her fellow captains providing the inspiration, the Redskins could well be in line for another banner year.