2011 Girls' Soccer Notebook (Vol. 2)

Day saves the Hatters in goal -Lindsey Day very clearly remembers the moment in her sophomore year when she found out she would be taking over full-time goalkeeping duties for the Hatboro-Horsham soccer team.
That moment didn't come after a practice or before a game.
It took place in a classroom.
"One day our goalie got hurt against Pennridge, and they threw me in the net because we didn't have a backup and (coach Ben Winderman) didn't want to take the JV goalie from their game," Day said. "The next day, he showed up at my fourth-period classroom and asked me if I wanted to be varsity goalie that night for the North Penn game, and the only response I could think of was 'Yes,' because I wanted to play and I wanted to help the team however I could."
For Winderman, seeing Day in goal for several shotless minutes was enough to convince him that she could handle the position.
"She played a little bit in that game, and I saw a glimmer of promise," Winderman said. "She looked comfortable, she looked like she could play that position."
Day, who had been a field player up to that point, stepped between the pipes and has never looked back. Now a senior captain on a Hatter squad that sits in second place in the Continental Conference, Day has very quietly become one of the most consistent and solid goalkeepers in the league.
"Lindsey is a super-effective goalkeeper," Winderman said. "She makes difficult saves look easy because she moves her feet well and gets in position so she doesn't have to dive.
"We have some really talented players that catch people's attention, and Lindsey has almost kind of gone unnoticed. She's been one of the most steady players in the league for the last two-and-a-half years. We appreciate her, even though she doesn't always get the recognition she deserves."
While the talent may have been there from the beginning, Day has attended several goaltending clinics and trained outside of the high school team in order to improve her technique.
The most difficult part of the game, she said, is the mental aspect. Once she had that down, the rest fell into place.
"The thing about being a goalie is, you can't let doubt get into your head," she said. "If you think you're good, you're going to play well. If you don't think you're going to do well, you won't.
"It was difficult, at first. I didn't have too much confidence in myself. Then I realized, if I didn't have confidence, if I was second-guessing myself, then the rest of the girls would, too. I have to be the leader on the field, so once I realized all of that, that's when everything started coming together."
Day considers her eye-hand coordination and her reaction time among her strengths in the net. Winderman would also add her anticipation and positioning ... which is important, since Day admits to having had a tough time at first figuring out exactly when she needed to dive. Not that you'd know by watching her. After all, when she's in the right place anyway, there's not much need to dive.
"Lindsey plays her angles really well," Winderman said. "She's trained herself to come out on her side, keep her eyes open, make herself big. She tends to see the game correctly."
For Day, who also plays basketball for the Hatters but doesn't expect to play either sport in college, this is her last chance to go out with a bang. And she and her teammates are keeping their goals lofty. A league title is something they're definitely looking at. Coming into Friday's games, the Hatters sit five points behind league-leading Pennridge, but the Rams' lone league loss came to the Hatters. And a rematch is right around the corner.
"We play in a great league, but one of our main goals was to win it," Day said. "When we beat Pennridge with 20 seconds left (a 2-1 win on Sept. 15), I think that's when it hit us that we can really do this.
"I'd love to win the league and to prove to everyone that we are really good. Before my freshman year, there were a lot of problems with the girls’ soccer team. It started turning around when Mr. Winderman came in. He brought our program together, and I think winning the league would be a huge thing to put on our school banner, and going really far in states would be awesome."
One thing is certain, the young lady minding the goal cage will play a huge part in how far the Hatters can go.
"Lately it's becoming really evident she has the confidence and she's blossoming," Winderman said. "She's no longer a field player playing goalie, she's a true goalie now."

***
Redskins’ offense a team effort - When you play on an offense that features the returning National Conference player of the year in sophomore Megan Schafer, it can sometimes be difficult to get noticed.
That's just fine for the forwards and midfielders on the Neshaminy soccer team. Because while opposing defenses are focusing their efforts on Schafer, a host of other Redskin players are stepping up and are turning Neshaminy into high-powered, multi-player offensive threat.
"It's been very important that the rest of us step up, because sometimes they put two, three players on Megan," said junior Jamie Mason. "Sometimes it's hard to even get it to her. We all realize that as forwards and midfielders, we we're gong to have to start putting the ball in the back of the net, too. Some of the girls and myself recognized that and started putting the ball in the back of the net."
Mason, along with Katie Suchodolski and Erin Farrell have reaped the benefits of the opposition focusing on Schafer (not that Shafer is having too much trouble. Having scored 20 goals and 15 assists as a freshman, Schafer has banged home 12 goals this season). Their efforts have helped the Redskins post some lopsided scores this season, but they've also been key to Neshaminy's success in close games -- focus on Schafer, and someone else is sure to step up and burn you.
"It's very crucial to have more than one person to finish for us," said Neshaminy coach Rachel Clemens. "They have stepped up in that role as finishers and it's something we have been focusing on in practice, having Meg lay off balls to them and having them take shots on the net. Each game I feel like Erin and Katie and Jamie gain more confidence in their shooting ability as they score they feel more comfortable with shooting the ball."
A natural speed demon, Farrell has been used to bring the ball down the side of the field and set up the forwards in front. This season, she's added a fearless ability to take on, and beat, those who step up to challenge her.
"Erin has tremendous speed, and we've been working on her taking people on 1 v. 1," Clemens said. "She has the speed to do it, she just never had the confidence to want to take someone on 1 on 1, so we've been working with her on trying to go at defenders or go at the midfield that she's up against and she's been successful. She's getting down the flank and putting quality balls across. She's been laying balls in that strikers would love to get on the end of."
And they've done so, with Mason and Suchodolski doing more than their part to take the pressure off Schafer and finish the plays themselves.
"We know that it's time to step up," Mason said. "With Erin, you know she can beat her girl. You just have to get on the ball, get your foot on the ball and you can get it in the back of the net."
Mason, who admits to having had a pass-first mentality in the past, took some time to get used to becoming a scoring threat.
"We said to Jamie, 'We know a lot of times you're looking to distribute the ball forward, but now we need you to get more involved offensively, we need you to lay out the ball and look to get it back,'" Clemens said. "She's getting more confident. We tell her she has to get forward more and get involved in the offense more and she has been."
Suchodolski, a sophomore, has stepped up her game as well. She also joined Schafer's club team, which has helped the two develop greater chemistry on the field for the Redskins.
"Katie saw a good amount minutes last year in an offensive role last year, but she certainly has matured since last season," Clemens said. "You can tell they she and Megan this chemistry between them. It helps being on two teams together. I knew last year that Katie had a very offensive-minded potential. Once she gets the strike off, she can definitely do some damage."
Their efforts have been a huge part of the team's success this season. Neshaminy sits in third place in the National Conference, and pulled off its biggest win of the season on Friday, defeating previously undefeated Council Rock North, 2-0. Suchodolski scored in the 21st minute and Mason added an insurance goal in the 51st. Schafer assisted on both tallies as the Redskins handed the Indians their first loss of the season. The Redskins remain in third place at 7-2 in league play (8-3 overall), trailing Council Rock North (9-1) and Council Rock South (8-1) in the standings, but remain within striking distance in what is shaping up to be a remarkably difficult league.
"We can see ourselves going very far this year," Mason said. "We expect to go far. We were talking about states (recently), we would like to make states and I think we expect to make it to states.
"I would like to finish first in the league, but since we lost twice to South, we'd need some help from the other teams. But as long as we go as far as we can in playoffs."
Much of that will depend on how potent the Redskins' offense can be. As dangerous as Schafer is, her fellow attackers are proving they deserve some consideration from opposing defenses as well.
"Megan's a game-changer, I can't say enough about her," Clemens said. "She's such a dynamic player to have on your team. Our girls look up to her and respect her and I think it makes them work harder for her."
"Meg is always pumping us up," Mason said. "She brings it to every game. She makes us feel that she leaves it all out there, so we want to step up our games and do the same."
***

Panthers looking to finish strong -There were more than a few question marks for the Cheltenham soccer team coming into the 2011 season.
While the team lost only a few players from last season's 7-9-2 (6-5-1 league) squad, there were questions as to how quickly the returning players could mature and how much better they could be. And, of course, several newcomers needed to prove they could play at the varsity level and made significant contributions.
As far as coach Mark Woodcock is concerned, the team has taken those question marks and turned them into exclamation points.
"At this stage, we're playing a lot better soccer than I thought we might be," the fifth-year Panthers' coach said. "I'm very pleased with the improvements we've shown. We're moving the ball around nicely, finishing a little bit better, we're beating the teams we're supposed to be beating and although we've had a couple of games where we had a letdown, for the most part we've been consistent. And I think we still have some improvements we can make over the last two weeks of the season to get to where we really want to be."
And where the Panthers really want to be is in the mix for a district tournament berth. Cheltenham sits at 5-3 in the American Conference (6-4 overall) and seems all-but-assured of posting a significant improvement over last season's record. The Panthers are in third in the conference, behind Upper Dublin (8-1) and Plymouth Whitemarsh (7-1), with whom the Panthers have a date on Monday. A good showing there and down the stretch might be enough to get the Panthers back to postseason play for the third time in four years.
"We played PW close, played Upper Dublin close," Woodcock said. "We lost 1-0 to both teams. Though they were losses, they showed us that if we played the way we can play, that we could compete. That hasn't always been the case. We're a smidge behind those teams right now, with the hope we might be able to get back into it with a good result against PW. We're comfortable in the top half (of the league), but we're still a smidge behind the top two. We've got to do some things a little better. We've got to play more physical, smarter.
"Though we've been in the playoffs two of the last three years, I think we felt a little behind. We got in, but we were not necessarily one of the better teams. This year I think we think we are. When we play our game, we're one of the better teams this year and I think the girls realize that now."
It's been a total team effort to get to that point. The biggest strength on the team, Woodcock said, is a strong, solid defense, led by seniors Tess Kind and Jackie Krevitz.
"Jackie, who's been our stopper, and Tess are very solid, very consistent in the backfield," Woodcock said. "We've got a couple new fullbacks, (sophomore) Liz White and (junior) Jackie Shore playing significantly better than I thought. They've made some very dramatic leaps this season. With the four of them, I feel very comfortable that we can handle most anybody.
"Our goalie, Jaymee Stepp, this is her second season as a starter. She's very, very solid. Between the four defenders and her, we're in position to stop a lot of teams."
The attack has been led by senior Emily Leibovitz (seven goals).
"Emily always showed that she had the raw athletic skills, and she's one of the fastest two or three players in the league," Woodcock said. "But she's become a much more disciplined player, and she's willing to work back and get the ball. She's making things happen for us."
And the Panthers have proven to be far more than a single-person threat. Marissa Gorman, Sloane Macklin, Kelly Rickard, Amarri Trueheart and Sarah Keeny have all been big parts of the offense and have seen their hard work translate on the scoreboard.
"That discipline that Emily's shown, the same can be said of her colleagues," Woodcock said. "We're seeing a growing level of confidence. They've started to move the balls nicely. We still struggle a little bit against the top teams because we're not quite where we need to be, but we're heading in the right direction."
Whether that direction takes them into the postseason is one more question for this team, a question that will be answered over the course of the next eight games. It won't be easy, but Woodcock believes that it's absolutely possible.
"I think we're making a good case for a playoff berth," he said. "We're worthy of being in the conversation right now. If we get a win over PW (on Oct. 10), that's going to really strengthen our case. We would like to think that our league, the top three should be in the conversation. We'd like to think we are close to there, but we probably need to win out in our league games. If we do that, we deserve to be talked about at the table.
"I think the girls know now that they can do that. It took us a little while to see how potentially good we could be. There was a point in the third week of the season that it started to dawn on them, that if they applied themselves in all the right way, they had all the tools to really do well. If we can play with that level of confidence, we can make a good accounting of ourselves."