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No defense could stymie Shawnee's Dennehey

The senior striker seemed to save her best effort for the big games.

At times, the stacked defenses intent on stopping Shawnee senior Shannon Dennehey seemed suffocating. One, often two and sometimes three players would attempt to stop her from her specialty of finding the back of the net.

There would be soccer games in which her touches were limited, but her impact was clearly felt.

In a season in which defenses didn't give Dennehey much room to breath, she still frequently found a way.

Playing against one of South Jersey's most difficult schedules, Dennehey scored 17 goals and added nine assists for a 16-7 team that finished as The Inquirer's No. 3 girls' soccer team.

Shawnee was the only team to defeat Lenape, earning a 1-0 victory on a goal by Dennehey, The Inquirer's South Jersey girls' soccer player of the year.

Dennehey said it wasn't easy facing such constant defensive scrutiny. But she had a great feel for the game, knowing she would have to give the ball up quickly then find an open spot to get it back.

"It was difficult, and I really wasn't used to it," she said about the tight defensive attention. "I saw that if teams were putting more than one person on me, it would open things up for my teammates."

Dennehey had nobody to blame but herself for the tight defensive marking. She scored 21 goals as a junior and with an array of one-on-one moves, opponents realized that giving her too much space was a sure way to taste defeat.

"She is the most dangerous offensive player I have ever had, and we have had some good strikers," Shawnee coach Drew Wagner said. "She can beat people one-on-one better than anyone."

Dennehey said the goal she scored to beat Lenape ranks as one of her best moments. That's a Lenape team that lost just two games over the last three years.

Shawnee played Lenape three times, and Dennehey scored in each game. She never had more than two goals a game, and most of her scores came against quality opponents, whose game plan was to make somebody other than Dennehey beat them. It was a plan she frequently foiled.

"I knew we had to win games, and I just had to find a way," she said.

Dennehey is now going through the recruiting process. Winthrop, South Carolina and Louisville are among the schools she is considering.

Dennehey had knee surgery as a freshman and wasn't 100 percent her sophomore year. But since then, she has been a dominating presence up top.

As a high school player, she displayed a classic finisher's mentality of not allowing anything to stop her pursuit of scoring. She thrived on the challenge, and the results clearly speak for themselves.