By Alex Frazier
Pennsbury’s Leigh Deininger has been playing soccer since she was three, but last Tuesday was her final game.
She will continue playing a sport in college, but it will be field hockey, not soccer.
“I’m done forever,” she said. “It still hasn’t hit me.”
“Her Dad helped to run the Yardley-Morrisville soccer program,” said Pennsbury field hockey coach Tracey Arndt. “They’re a big-time soccer family forever, so I always joke with her that I’m glad I got to steal her from the soccer world.”
So what does her father think of this? After all, he was her coach all the way through club ball.
“He just wanted me to experience college sports,” said Deininger.
Deininger started playing field hockey in seventh grade, but didn’t take it seriously until she was a sophomore when she started playing out of season. By the end of her junior year, she had made up her mind to pursue a college career in her new sport.
“I just wanted to try something else,” she said. “It surprised my whole family.”
Deininger broke into high school soccer in ninth grade. For the regular season she was a starter on jayvee, but when the playoffs came around coach Chris McCormick brought her up to the varsity as he does to give future players experience.
The Falcons found themselves down a player against Emmaus, which was then the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
“We thought, let’s throw her out on the outside mid,” said McCormick. “She’s got speed, and let’s see what she can do. It was her first varsity minutes the entire varsity season and she really excelled.”
That game earned her playing time in the remainder of the playoffs all the way to the state semifinals.
“To this day we haven’t had anyone from the jayvee be called up in a playoff game,” said McCormick, who re-tells the inspirational story each year to the jayvees before the playoffs.
Deininger started the next three years, and scored two goals and chipped in four assists.
“She definitely has speed,” said McCormick, who also noted her knowledge of the game. “She can slow the game down and get everyone involved as the role of a central midfielder should be. She does a really nice job of that.”
Having a solid background in soccer prepared her tremendously for hockey.
“It was easy for me to pick it up,” she said.
So easy she earned a scholarship to St. Joe’s next year.
“What’s nice about the soccer and field hockey connection is if you can learn soccer at an early age, you really build a game sense,” said Arndt. “The tricky part of hockey is getting the stickwork down.
“For the first couple of years, Leigh was raw. She had athleticism like you couldn’t believe, and that was really her in. She was a starter all three years she was on varsity. With her soccer game sense, her speed and explosiveness allowed her to be the great athlete she is, and with her hard work and the coaches working with her to get her skills down.”
Arndt believes she will make a good college player.
“I think she’s at a great level right now, but when she gets to Michelle Finegan at St. Joseph’s, it’s going to take her to a whole other level,” she said. “Her game sense, her explosiveness and her skills are still getting perfected. I’m excited. I think her potential is enormous, and I’m glad she’s staying local so we can watch her and cheer her on.”
In light of the Suburban One League’s decision to move girls’ soccer to the fall, Deininger and others like her have tough decisions to make.
Asked which she would have chosen, Deininger didn’t hesitate.
“I would have played soccer.”
Surprise, surprise – Cheltenham’s playoff run was a short one this year, but even the Panthers surprised themselves by making the post-season.
Consider that four years ago, Cheltenham was 0-18. Last year, the Panthers finished with seven league wins and this year raised that to eight.
“It’s been a work in progress,” said coach Mark Woodcock.
For the first time in at least 12 years, Cheltenham returned to the district playoffs, only to be ousted by No. 2 Neshaminy, 4-1. Redskin coach Rich Reice was impressed with the pluck of the Panthers, who he said made his team play.
“We had an unpredictably good season,” said Woodcock. “I wasn’t sure if we were really going to be playoff ready, but we had an unbelievable second half of the season.”
The Panthers split the first half, winning a couple they should have won and losing a couple they should have won.
And then came the Upper Dublin game.
“We played Upper Dublin pretty well and after that we didn’t lose,” said Woodcock.
The Panthers ran the table in their last seven. They even beat Wissahickon, a team that knocked off No. 3-seed Council Rock South in the playoffs, twice during the season.
“We surprised ourselves,” said Woodcock. “When we started to learn how to win, we started to come through.”
The Panthers aren’t a team of superstars. Six or seven girls have contributed four, five, six goals.
“We don’t have any go-to girls,” said Woodcock. “We’re a bunch of hard working girls. We tackle hard, we defend pretty well and we’re pretty smart and athletic. We make the most of what we have.”
Kristina Koutsouras is about as close to stardom as you get. The senior center mid and co-captain is a first team all-league selection.
“She’s one of the most gifted players I’ve come in contact with,” said Woodcock. “She has an understanding of the game, which very few girls do. She’s one of those girls who’s a leader on the field. She’s not very loud or vocal, but she plays with a passion that’s hard to match. She’s
our most valuable single player.”
Other seniors that contribute leadership to the team are midfielders April Doroski and Dana Krimker.
The noteworthy juniors include twins Jackie (goalie) and Christie Kershaw and striker Bethanne Goldman.
Woodcock’s freshmen starters include defenders Bree Hansteen and Tess Briocchi and center midfielder Marissa Gorman.
“They’ve contributed hugely to the team,” said Woodcock.
Woodcock stresses teamwork has been an important ingredient in the Panthers’ success.
“One of the things I respect about the girls we have is that we’ve learned that what makes you a good team is being consistent with every game,” said Woodcock. “We’ve always had this high level of commitment to defending well, and it’s served us great.
“It’s the kind of team that loves to come to practice and loves to go out running together and have pasta parties together.”
Good-bye soccer – Long-time Souderton soccer coach Terry Underkoffler is coaching his last Southeastern Pennsylvania team this year.
He and his wife will move to Maryland this summer.
“We had planned this for 10 years,” he said, “and it’s now happening.”
To say that Underkoffler’s soccer resume is exceptional would be an understatement.
He started his soccer career playing forward for Souderton. After graduating, he went to Montco and then transferred to Kutztown. At Montco there was only one goalie so he decided to try that since he had always been a baseball player and could catch and dive for balls.
His goaltending experience as a college player led him, in 1980, to start a goalie-specific training program for the ODP in Region One.
Over the course of years, Underkoffler has trained many successful goalies. Currently three of his former protégés are playing professional women’s soccer. They include Nicole Barnhart (FC Pride), Kristin Luckinvill (Boston Breakers) and Shannon Myers (Sky Blue).
In 1983 after being laid off at Methacton due to an economic downturn, Underkoffler was coaching a summer camp in Virginia and was asked to be the goalkeeper coach at the University of Virginia by legendary head coach Bruce Arena. He lived with assistant Bob Bradley. But just as the season was about to begin he was notified by Methacton that a position had opened up. It was a difficult decision but the money was much better at Methacton, so he returned. Three years later he met his wife.
Underkoffler has coached high school soccer at three different schools. He began at his alma mater, coaching the Souderton boys from 1985-1996, winning five SOL Liberty Division titles, making nine straight PIAA playoff appearances and finishing with a 160-37-18 record. In 1987 he was named Coach of the Year.
He then went to Upper Perkiomen where he coached the boys from 1997-2003. His team won the Pioneer Athletic Conference in 2003 and was a league runner-up in 2004. He was named PAC-10 Coach of the Year and Pennsylvania AAA Coach of the Year in 2003.
In 2004 he took over the Upper Perk girls and led them to the PAC-10 title in 2008, breaking a skein of nine straight titles by Owen J. Roberts. The Tribe, in fact, is the only other team to win the PAC-10 title.
For that distinction, he was named Coach of the Year and was a finalist for PIAA Coach of the Year.
In 2003 Underkoffler also started coaching the Souderton girls, taking them to their first state playoff appearance in 2005.
Besides high school, Underkoffler has been active in the EPYSA and ODP programs for 27 years. He was Region One Coach of the Year in 1996.
Naturally, there have been many highlights over a long career. Of those, Underkoffler noted in particular: Being able to walk into three different gyms and see championship banners hanging from the walls; returning to coach boys at Souderton and taking them from two winning seasons in 20 years to a title in just three years; re-connecting with his former players.
“You may not remember the numbers or the scores,” he said. “But you remember the players. Those relationships are valuable. I’m proud I have so many ex-players coaching.”
Taking his first Souderton girls’ team to the district final is another invaluable memory.
“I’m going to miss game day,” he said. “I’m going to miss designing game systems and watching them grow over time. I’ll miss those kinds of things, the interaction of the players within a team setting. What I won’t miss are bus rides.”
Though Underkoffler will be moving away from the area, he may not be leaving soccer entirely.
“I would like a break from being a head coach,” he said. “I was coaching two high school teams and still doing ODP soccer for both the state and the region. It was a really tough schedule. It’s been a long haul. At this point I’d rather step back and maybe do some assistant coaching, kick back a little.”
Around the league – The District One quarterfinals went according to Hoyle; all the top-seeded teams advanced to next Tuesday’s semifinals at Central Bucks West.
Top-seeded Central Bucks South cruised past William Tennent, 3-0. Scoring for the Titans were Ashley McKenna (Casey Walsh assist), Julia Goldsworthy (McKenna assist) and Lauren Buchanan-Dwyer (Meredith Fox assist).
South will take on No. 4 Pennridge, which nicked Central Bucks West 1-0 on Marissa Kunkle’s penalty kick.
In the bottom half of the bracket, No. 2 Neshaminy rolled over Council Rock North, 4-1. Brianna Hires pumped in a pair of goals, while Jen Hutchinson and Michelle Batista added single tallies.
The Redskins will face No. 6 Souderton, a 2-0 winner over Wissahickon. Lindsey Hollingsworth and Courtney Silbert scored for the Big Red, while Becca Chylack notched her 39th career shutout in goal.
• Round one of the District One playoffs produced one major upset when No. 14 Wissahickon ousted No. 3 Council Rock South, 2-1.
“The key to the game was that after they got the first goal, we got it back one minute later on a free kick by Andrea Lewis (30 yards out),” said Wissahickon coach Chris McDaniels. “That
convinced the girls we had a real shot. We worked harder all game to limit their chances and Alyssa King made some incredible stops in net.
“Our second goal was a great strike by Alex Schaefer that beat their keeper bottom left. From that point we went into a defensive shell and they got some opportunities, but most from beyond the 18. They may have been the better soccer team, but we won in the work rate department and sometimes that is more important.”
Two games went to overtime. William Tennent's Samantha Fox buried the Panthers’ fifth goal in a shootout to advance them to the quarterfinals.
Central Bucks West’s Amanda Fleischut scored the game winner in the second overtime period to give the Bucks a 3-2 win over archrival C.B. East.
No. 1-seed Central Bucks South won its first playoff game in school history, rolling over Quakertown 4-1.
SOL Top Five
1. Central Bucks South
5. Council Rock North
FINAL PSCA / ANGELO'S SOCCER CORNER POLL
Week of May 10
1. Central Bucks South (1) previous rank 1
2. Manheim Township (3) 2
3. Neshaminy (1) 3
4. Emmaus (11) 7
5. Cumberland Valley (3) 9
6. Council Rock South (1) 10
7. Hershey (3) 4
8. Hempfield (3) 5
9. Wilson (3) 6
10. Lower Dauphin (3) NR
Honorable Mention: Central Dauphin (3), Dallastown (3), Nazareth (11), Parkland (11), Penn Manor (3), Pennridge (1), Red Land (3), Warwick (3).
NSCAA/adidas® National Rankings
Region I May 12
1. Central Bucks South (Warrington, PA) 17 - 0 - 0
2. Manheim Township (Lancaster, PA) 16 - 1 - 1
3. Neshaminy (Langhorne, PA) 15 - 1 - 1
4. Hershey (Hershey, PA) 17 - 2 - 1
5. Hempfield (Landisville, PA) 15 - 3 - 0
6. Emmaus (Emmaus, PA) 16 - 2 - 2
7. Cumberland Valley (Mechanicsburg, PA) 17 - 3 - 0
8. Council Rock South (Holland, PA) 14 - 2 - 2
9. Caesar Rodney (Camden, DE) 13 - 1 - 0
10. A.I. duPont (Greenville, DE) 11 - 1 - 0
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