Neshaminy's Mercedez Paino earns Girls' Soccer Player of the Year honor

Neshaminy's Mercedez Paino is our Girls' Soccer Player of the Year for Bucks/Intell.
Neshaminy's Mercedez Paino is our Girls' Soccer Player of the Year for Bucks/Intell.

Neshaminy senior midfielder Mercedez Paino is a rare combination of skill, leadership and heart and is the Bucks County Courier Times/Intelligencer Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.

Paino, all 5-foot 2 of her, managed to go around big physical defenders enough times to score 10 goals and also managed to assist on 15 others. Always in motion, she is relentless in either finding a teammate with a perfect pass or hitting the back of the net herself.

“I really have learned to use my speed and use my height as an advantage for me,” Paino said. “My nickname when I was little was Choo Choo Train because I wouldn’t stop.”

Her leadership skills have been a big help to first-year coach Josh Van Reed. If he saw a problem that needed addressing, chances are that Paino, a two-year co-captain, had already addressed it.

“You kind of have these special leaders that come along,” Van Reed said. “She was a captain last year, so the girls thought very highly of her. This is someone on the team who everybody respects. And they don’t just respect her because she’s a good player. They respect her because she’s honest, she works hard.

“She’s an example of how you’re supposed to carry yourself, on the field, off the field. Academically she’s a fantastic student. She’s the kind of player that you really dream of having as a leader on your team. Everybody respects what she says.”

More:Neshaminy beats clock, CB East for first district title since 2016

More:Photos: Pennridge defeats Neshaminy in PIAA girls soccer semifinal

Undoubtedly, another thing her teammates and coaches respect is her heart. Not even injury could stop Paino this season.

In a game against Council Rock North, Paino broke her wrist after falling backwards. She had the trainer wrap it up and continued to play. Then with 23 minutes, 53 seconds left and her team trailing Pennridge, 2-0, in a PIAA Class 4A state semifinal playoff game against Pennridge on Nov, 16, Paino’s right hip popped out of joint. Her father, Anthony, came to the sidelines, popped it back in and Paino came back into the game, missing just over two minutes.

“A couple years ago, I broke my back,” Paino said. “So my muscles sometimes aren’t strong enough to keep (the hip) in place. So if I get hit really bad like that, it kind of just pops out. So my leg was kind of just like dangling there.

“My dad is used to putting it back in and I just knew that I wanted to go back on and I knew that that wasn’t going to be my last moments on the field. We were obviously down, 2-0, at that point and I just wanted to get back in there and hopefully try to get a goal. But it didn’t happen.”

What did happen is that Neshaminy improved every year that she was on the team, culminating with a 23-1-2 record this year and finishing one step away from playing for a state championship. Neshaminy was 57-17-4 during her time there.

Paino will have lots of memories to carry with her as she continues her soccer and academic career at St. Francis University next fall.

“Growing with my teammates really helped,” Paino said. “We all know each other very well. We’re all so close and that definitely helped us this year for sure. As the years went on, we got closer and closer and closer and it just really helped with our success over the years.”

More:A first for Croyle results in Pennridge's second trip to state final in three years

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Neshaminy's Paino is named Girls' Soccer Player of the Yaer