In­di­ans top D’town West, close in on di­vi­sion ti­tle

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

The pre­match ti­tle im­pli­ca­tions ac­tu­ally in­volved four dif­fer­ent teams in both of the Ches-Mont di­vi­sions, and were, quite frankly, a bit con­fus­ing. But the bot­tom line — with the win­ner grab­bing sole pos­ses­sion of a cham­pi­onship — was easy to un­der­stand.

The Unionville girls’ soccer squad, how­ever, squared off on Thurs­day against vis­it­ing Down­ing­town West com­pletely un­aware of the heady ram­i­fi­ca­tions. That’s be­cause In­di­ans head coach Joe Ratasiewicz con­sciously de­cided not to tell his play­ers, and he was happy with the decision af­ter Unionville handed the Whip­pets their first con­fer­ence set­back, 1-0.

“I never told them. We just play one game at a time,” he said.

“We have three starters out for the sea­son, in­clud­ing two se­nior cap­tains — Maddy Mal­loy and Liz Koehler. This team has bat­tled through ad­ver­sity, so I didn’t want to put any more pres­sure on them than nec­es­sary.”

There was also an­other rea­son. The In­di­ans (9-2-1, 11-4-2 over­all) have to take care of busi­ness in Fri­day’s reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale against 4-8 Oc­torara in or­der to of­fi­cially cap­ture the Ches-Mont Amer­i­can cham­pi­onship.

“We haven’t won any­thing un­til we win (Fri­day),” Ratasiewicz said. “I am proud of our play­ers for stick­ing to­gether. If this winds up be­ing a cham­pi­onship sea­son, it’s a sur­prise given all of the ad­ver­sity we’ve had.”

Ju­nior mid­fielder Salem Car­low notched the only goal of the evening, and af­ter­wards she was quite sur­prised to learn that her team is now clos­ing in on a ti­tle.

“I just heard some­one say that if we beat Oc­torara, we will win the di­vi­sion,” she said. “Is that true?”

When told that it was, in­deed true, and that the big win moved the In­di­ans past West Ch­ester Rustin and into first place, she added: “That’s crazy. Wow.

“All we knew was that Down­ing­town West was the No. 1 team

in our league and we just went as hard as we could.”

It was a bit­ter set­back for Down­ing­town West (111-1, 12-3-2), who now has to share the Ches-Mont Na­tional crown with West Ch­ester Hen­der­son.

“Of course, we wanted it all by our­selves, but be­ing the Ches-Mont Na­tional champs is one of the goals the girls de­cided to pur­sue very early on,” Whip­pets head coach Mary Schanne. “They achieved that goal.”

It was a clas­sic de­fen­sive bat­tle with both sides hav­ing a few qual­ity scor­ing chances. West may have had a few more in the open­ing half, but the In­di­ans fi­nally broke the dead­lock when Car­low found the net from point­blank range in the midst of a scram­ble with 35.8 sec­onds on the clock. Team­mate Gabrielle White notched the as­sist as her free kick nearly went in, but bounced off the cross­bar, then off the hands of Whip­pets keeper Mor­gan O’Lough­lin and bounced free to Car­low.

“Af­ter it bounced off the cross­bar and hit the goal­tender, then I just ran up and knocked it in,” Car­low ex­plained. “We are taught to crash the net, go af­ter the ball and never let down un­til it goes in.

“It was such an adren­a­line rush.”

Down­ing­town West’s best scor­ing chance came in the open­ing min­utes of the sec­ond half, when Gina Peraino got off a blast that was redi­rected out of harm’s way by a div­ing Unionville goal­tender, Katie Bor­lie. Mo­ments later, Sam­mie Sipes had an­other promis­ing shot, but it was di­rectly at Bor­lie. In ad­di­tion, speedy sopho­more Syd­ney Am­paro added a cou­ple more prime scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that were also turned

away.

“(Down­ing­town West is) a strong team, so we just wanted to with­stand the first 10 minute on­slaught – it seemed like 30,” Ratasiewicz said.

“In the first half and early in the sec­ond half, we played our game, we pos­sessed the ball,” Schanne added. “We have some things to fig­ure out in terms of get­ting bet­ter qual­ity fin­ish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

West wound up with an 8-4 shots on goal ad­van­tage, in ad­di­tion to a 3-0 edge in cor­ner kicks, but had dif­fi­culty get­ting through the Unionville de­fense, an­chored by mid­fielder Erin Gar­vey and backed up by Bor­lie.

“Erin Gar­vey is like a brick wall,” Car­low said.

“I thought our keeper had a tremen­dous game, and so did our left back, Lyn­d­sey Barrett. Both of them are fresh­man,” Ratasiewicz said.

In the fi­nal 15 min­utes of ac­tion, the Whip­pets were never re­ally able to mount much of­fen­sively. Unionville’s only sec­ond half threat came on yet an­other set piece play, when White nearly knocked in an­other off a free kick, but the shot headed just over the West net.

“It took us a while this sea­son to get used to one an­other, and we are play­ing a dif­fer­ent style,” Ratasiewicz ex­plained. “We’re not as tech­ni­cal as Down­ing­town West, so we are play­ing a more di­rect style and it seems to be work­ing for this group. Things are com­ing to­gether and I am happy for them.”

Car­low said: “We have pro­gres­sively got­ten bet­ter all sea­son. I can’t be­lieve we just beat (Down­ing­town West). It’s in­sane. A lot of hard work has paid off.”

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