Hen­der­son edges Whip­pets in key league show­down

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

In a clash with first place on the line and play­ing on the road in a fierce cross­wind with driv­ing rain, it helps to have the sta­bil­ity of ex­pe­ri­enced se­niors who have been play­ing to­gether for 10 years.

That’s what West Ch­ester Hen­der­son head coach Sean Ryan has, and on Thurs­day evening at DeSer­afino Sta­dium, it made all of the dif­fer­ence in the War­riors’ 1-0 boys’ soc­cer tri­umph over Down­ing­town West.

Look­ing to suc­cess­fully de­fend its Ches-Mont Na­tional ti­tle, Hen­der­son took a ma­jor step, thanks in part to the calm­ing in­flu­ence of vet­er­ans Richie Sch­lentz, Jared Matthias and Max Zandi.

“We have a good group back on de­fense,” Ryan said. “We have three guys who are se­niors who have played to­gether since they were 7 years old. They know each other’s strengths and how to cover for each other. It’s nice to have that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence on the back line.

“We know the kind of team West is. That they would sit in, counter and look to hit restarts. The con­di­tions kind of helped them, so we just wanted to make sure we didn’t make any silly mis­takes.”

Now 4-0 in the divi­sion (12-1 over­all), the War­riors lim­ited the Whip­pets (2-1-2, 4-1-2 over­all) to just three shots on goal, en­abling sopho­more goal­keeper Brady McSwain to reg­is­ter the shutout.

“To come here on a rainy, cold night against a very com­pet­i­tive op­po­nent, we knew we would

have to come out strong in or­der to win this game,” Sch­lentz said.

“Our guys came re­ally came out, on a tough night, and re­ally took care of busi­ness,” Ryan added. “A lot of these guys have played a ton of soc­cer and know how to han­dle when it is wet and slick on the turf.

“This is a very big win. Down­ing­town West is al­ways a very strong pro­gram. It came down to them and us last year for the (Ches-Mont) Na­tional side. I know they had a cou­ple ties, but for us to beat them here, it gives us a two-game lead be­cause now we have the head-to­head against them.”

De­ter­mined to get off to a good start, Hen­der­son mis­fired on a cou­ple early scor­ing chances when drives from Tom Cau­field and Kevin Kiefer sailed over the West cross­bar. But at the 15:39 mark, Sch­lentz broke the score­less tie on a scram­ble fol­low­ing a War­rior cor­ner kick.

“We ran a play off a cor­ner and I hap­pened to be in the right place at the right time,” Sch­lentz ex­plained. “It was a bit of a garbage goal, but I’ll take it.

“(West’s) keeper spilled the ball, it bounced off a few play­ers in the box and kind of came right to my foot and I just knocked it in.”

Team­mates Cau­field and Char­lie Collins also had prime scor­ing chances be­fore the in­ter­mis­sion. And even though Hen­der­son took a slim 1-0 lead into the break, it was im­por­tant to strike first.

“You don’t want to let Hen­der­son front-run,” said Down­ing­town West head coach John Hatt. “They are a tal­ented team, and you’re not go­ing to get into a high-scor­ing bat­tle with them, so the first goal was very im­por­tant.”

Ryan added: “Any­thing came hap­pen on a night like tonight. You can slip and fall, the ball can get caught up in the pud­dles, so to be able to go ahead, that changes the com­plex­ion of the game, we were able to do some things safer de­fen­sively with the lead.”

Se­nior for­ward Frank DeRosa came close to mak­ing it 2-0 on a cou­ple of sec­ond half oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing a se­quence where his ini­tial shot was stopped by Whip­pets se­nior for­ward Strash Jaron, and then by West keeper James Meals on the re­bound.

Per­haps the Whip­pets best scor­ing chance came with just un­der seven min­utes on the clock, when Dylan Loaec blasted a shot that was turned away by McSwain.

“Hen­der­son is a good team and you want to mea­sure your­selves against them,” Hatt said. “We didn’t win the match but we played hard and hope­fully that will serve us well the rest of the sea­son.

“They played on the same field in the same con­di­tions we did. They were able to get a goal and we couldn’t quite do that.”

When it was over, Sch­lentz stressed the im­por­tance of hav­ing vet­eran team­mates, like Mat­tias and Roberts, to guide the War­riors through the match and then close it out.

“It helps for sure,” he said. “This is our fourth year play­ing to­gether in high school, and it was longer than that be­fore. We can help each other read the game. It is nice play­ing with peo­ple you know. That con­nec­tion re­ally helps.”

With just six reg­u­lar sea­son matches re­main­ing, and only two against divi­sion op­po­nents, Hen­der­son is clos­ing in on an­other ti­tle.

“We’ve won it the last two years, and we want to win it again,” Sch­lentz said. “We also want to go far in states, but we have to take it one match at a time. We can’t get caught look­ing too far ahead.”

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