You could say taking the coaching reins of a talented Neshaminy girls soccer team is a double-edged sword but you'd be slightly off the mark in that it's a multi-edged sword.
On the one hand, the Lady Skins are coming off their best — no, strike that, make it a perfect season: 25 wins against no losses, 18 shutouts including three in the state playoffs and one in the district semifinals against a very good Boyertown team that went to the state quarterfinals.
"It was a perfect season,' said new head coach Chelsea Deeter, who saw it all in the front row from her position as assistant coach. "We call them our perfect girls and our perfect season.
"It couldn't have gone any better than it did — a once in a lifetime.'
"It was pretty awesome to experience it.'
On the other hand, the team is taking the field for the first time in four years without the services of PA Gatorade Player of the Year Megan Schafer along with Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference First Teamers McKenna Mullin (St. Joe's), Jess Kelly (Arcadia) and Katie Suchodolski (Marshall).
And then, following in the footsteps of former head coach Rachel Clemens — who took the team to the postseason four straight years, to states the past two seasons and led the squad to two straight unbeaten league campaigns — is no easy task.
"I have big shoes to fill; she was an amazing coach and she had an amazing season,' said Deeter of the former skipper.
"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself but we have the same goals — we want to go out and we want to win SOLs, get to districts and get to states.'
The good news is that Neshaminy is returning a host of experienced players including SOL National Conference honorees Gabby Farrell (First Team) Maggie Daeche, Fran Donato, Amy Mandia and Nicole Nisivoccia. All but Farrell and Daeche are seniors.
What's more, 25 freshmen tried out for the team, giving Deeter a large pool of new talent to choose from. Sixty players tried out for 40 varsity and JV positions.
Of course, the ' Skins enter the 2014 campaign with a huge target on their back.
With Donato and Mandia shoring up the center-midfield position and junior Alyssa Antonelli at outside-mid, Neshaminy returns — sans Schafer — with high expectations, nonetheless. Both USA Today and Top Drawer Soccer have the Skins listed among the top 25 teams in the nation.
"We definitely have a lot of talent,' stated Deeter.
Despite the graduation of seven players, most of them starters, the Skins return with plenty of power to place on the pitch. Offensively for Neshaminy, Farrell and sophomore Alyssa Tobin are positioned up top with Tobin jumping into Schafer's old spot. Schafer netted 33 goals, adding 18 assists her senior year so those are big shoes to fill. Megan tallied more than 100 times for the Skins during her four-year career.
"You can't replace (Schafer) but we have two forwards (in) Gabby (Farrell) and Alyssa Tobin who will work just as hard as Meg did to create scoring opportunities for their team,' said Deeter.
Shoring up the backfield for Neshaminy are Daeche and junior Julia Andreozzi at the center-back position along with Nisivoccia on the outside.
Nicole was a key player in last year's district title win over Downingtown East, man-marking Cougars forward Linnea Faccenda. With 35 goals coming into the game, Faccenda had scored in every single game last season.
She didn't score at all in the title tilt.
"We decided to get her edge off of the field,' said former coach Clemens, "and let the rest of the team do the work.
"It worked out.'
Nisivoccia will receive some help on the outside from freshman Jackie Ziegler, who is projected to start in the backfield this season.
While the Skins have yet to play a game, Deeter already is faced with an acute injury problem in goal in that junior keeper Holly Bowser is on the disabled list with a dislocated shoulder. Senior backfielder Katie McCoy is also out hurt. Stepping in for Bowser are freshman Vicky Smith and junior Alex Jackson, a field player who has played in the net for her club team.
Smith and/or Jackson are going to have to step up for Neshaminy this Saturday, Aug. 30 as the Skins host defending District 3 champion Cumberland Valley in the season-opener. The Eagles may come loaded for bear as there is a little bit of postseason history between these teams.
In 2012, CV went all the way to the state final, nipping Neshaminy 2-1 in the PIAA semis that year before falling at the hands of 3-time champ Peters Township.
Last year, looking to get back to the state title tilt and perhaps win it, the Eagles were stunned 2-1 by Spring-Ford — the team the Skins beat in the championship — in a PIAA opener.
"We're excited for our season to start. It'll be a good test — something to wake us up,' said Deeter, of the coming battle with CV. "We have to play hard and play physical; it's not just going to be a walk in the park.'
Deeter might have the right approach to the job that is ahead of her this season and that is making sure her defending state champions keep a level head on their shoulders.
"Some people might think we're state champs, we don't have to put in as much work but I don't think that's our attitude,' the coach said.
"I know sometimes as a player you can feel that way but you have to bring yourself back to reality and take it one game at a time.'
Sounds like a recipe for success in 2014.NOTES: Deeter is a 2006 graduate of NHS who played the center-back position for Kutztown where she was a four-time All-PSAC selection.