Strong sec­ond half lifts Hen­der­son in dis­trict opener

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bruce Adams badams @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @mline­s­ports on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER >> No. 10 West Ch­ester Hen­der­son, open­ing the PIAA Dis­trict 1 4A girls soc­cer tour­na­ment at home Tuesday evening, hit a bump in the road when it found it­self trail­ing at half­time to 23rd-seeded Gar­net Val­ley.

But a for­ma­tion change in the sec­ond half, and two goals from tal­ented se­nior Syd­ney Zandi spaced less than six min­utes apart, smoothed the way for the War­riors in a 2-1 first-round win at J. Os­car Dicks Sta­dium.

With the vic­tory, Hen­der­son (15-2-3) ad­vances to the sec­ond round of dis­tricts, where it will play No. 7 Cen­tral Bucks South Thurs­day.

Gar­net Val­ley started Tuesday evening on the at­tack, and when sopho­more for­ward Gia Drag­oni scored with 31 min­utes left in the first half, it put the vis­i­tors ahead 1-0. Hen­der­son, mean­while, was having trou­ble putting to­gether a scor­ing at­tack.

“Our pos­ses­sions let us down in the first half — we weren’t break­ing enough lines,” said Hen­der­son head coach Craig Scan­garella. “At half­time, we de­cided to go from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2, so we could play longer, go higher up in at­tack.”

The strat­egy worked, and, for most of the sec­ond half, the ball resided in Gar­net Val­ley ter­ri­tory. Five min­utes into the sec­ond half, a Hen­der­son shot on goal was knocked away by Gar­net Val­ley se­nior goalie Ash­ley Bu­fano (who had 13 saves), but the ball came to Zandi, who con­nected for a score that tied the game at 1-1 with 34:11 left.

“Their goalie hit it out, the ball came to me, and I had to keep com­posed when I [con­nected],” said a smil­ing Zandi, who spent sev­eral weeks ear­lier this fall with the U.S. Un­der-17 Women’s Na­tional Team in Jor­dan. “When I [con­nected], I thought maybe I got the ball too high. It was a big relief to see the ball go in, be­cause we weren’t be­hind any­more. We didn’t want the sea­son to end tonight. Our goal is to make it to States.”

Less than six min­utes later, a re­lieved Zandi con­nected once more, this time from the left side. Her shot de­flected off a Gar­net Val­ley de­fender and went into the net at 28:40 to give the War­riors a 2-1 lead that they held the rest of the way.

Scan­garella said, “[Se­nior mid­fielder and cap­tain] Kailee Coo­nan and [fresh­man mid­fielder] Cather­ine De Rosa did a great job to help us main­tain pos­ses­sion in the sec­ond half. And [ju­nior] cen­ter back Ju­lia Wood did a fan­tas­tic job tonight too.”

The Hen­der­son head coach also praised War­rior ju­nior goalie Sara Li­ef­frig, who stopped ev­ery­thing that came her way in the sec­ond half. She made sev­eral key saves late in the game (in­clud­ing one off a penalty kick) and fin­ished with 12 saves.

Scan­garella said, “We needed to trust our style, and stay pos­i­tive in the sec­ond half. Hats off to Gar­net Val­ley — they’re a strong team de­fen­sively.”

Hen­der­son hosted Gar­net Val­ley ear­lier this sea­son (Sept. 16), and played the Jaguars to a 2-2 tie.

Gar­net Val­ley coach Joe Brang­iel said, “Our team played with a lot of de­ter­mi­na­tion this sea­son. Our girls were fly­ing around tonight like you couldn’t be­lieve. Some of them were cramp­ing up be­cause they were run­ning their hearts out. [Se­nior cen­ter mid] Ava Wenger was all over the ball tonight, and [se­nior mid­field­ers] Jenna But­ter­more and Alex Zecca played solid de­fense tonight - Hen­der­son has a lot of re­ally good play­ers who can score. And [goalie] Ash­ley Bu­fano did a re­ally good job.”

“We had some tough chal­lenges this sea­son. We lost two of our best play­ers to in­jury be­fore the sea­son, and we played a tough non­con­fer­ence sched­ule — that was good prepar­tion for tonight’s game.”

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