Hen­der­son beats the rain, blanks Penn Wood

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bill Ru­dick bru­dick55@gmail.com @bru­dick55 on Twit­ter

Just as the last notes of the Star Span­gled Ban­ner echoed around J. Os­car Dicks Sta­dium, the rain hit. No mere driz­zle, the tor­ren­tial down­pour car­ried on through­out the first half of Thurs­day night’s District 1 4A boys soc­cer play­off be­tween host Hen­der­son, the No. 2 seed, and No. 15 Penn Wood.

De­spite the not-ex­act­lypris­tine con­di­tions, the War­riors put to­gether about as clean a game as could be ex­pected, and ad­vanced to the quar­ter­fi­nals with a 5-0 blank­ing of the Pa­tri­ots.

In the quar­ter­fi­nals, sched­uled for Satur­day at a time to be de­ter­mined, Hen­der­son will host No. 7 Lower Me­rion, a win­ner over Wis­sahickon ear­lier in the af­ter­noon Wed­nes­day.

“It was tough out there in the first half,” said Hen­der­son fresh­man Kevin Kiefer, who notched a pair of goals for the War­riors. “With the rain com­ing down as hard as it was, once you got run­ning hard against the win or look­ing up, it could be

hard to see. Balls were slip­pery, and long balls would skid. But you just have to play through it.”

But it was con­di­tions both teams had to con­tend with, and nei­ther team seemed to get much of an ad­van­tage or be dis­ad­van­taged be­cause of it.

“Con­di­tions were not the best, but both teams have to play in it,” said Penn Wood coach Al Po­plawski. “Con­di­tions aren’t an ex­cuse. I’m proud of the way th­ese kids played to­day. Things just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Kiefer opened the scor­ing a lit­tle over five min­utes into the first half, find­ing the back of the net with 24:46 to play in the half. Frank DeRosa made it 2-0 headed into the break with a goal as­sisted by Richie Sch­lentz.

If the War­riors were feel­ing any rust from the ex­tended lay­off as­so­ci­ated with a first round bye, it didn’t show. Hen­der­son con­trolled pos­ses­sion for much of the the game, and on the rare oc­ca­sion Penn Wood was able to get the ball across mid­field, the War­riors’ backs and goalie Brady McSwain, who notched a cou­ple high­light reel saves, kept the Pa­tri­ots from find­ing the back of the net.

“We don’t think Brady gets the kind of recog­ni­tion we be­lieve he de­serves,” said Hen­der­son coach Sean Ryan. “With a team like we have, he doesn’t get a ton of save op­por­tu­ni­ties. But you saw tonight that when he needs to, he can make the spec­tac­u­lar stop.”

The War­riors added an­other three goals in the sec­ond half. Kiefer picked up his sec­ond just af­ter the break. Thomas King made a nice cross to Ai­den McFad­den a few min­utes later. Then fi­nally, not thirty sec­onds af­ter com­ing in off the bench, Gabe Scholl scored, with an­other as­sist to King.

Though the Pa­tri­ots sea­son ends with the loss, it had been one of the best sea­sons Penn Wood boys soc­cer has had.

“We’ve only been this far once be­fore, about seven years ago, and that time we ran into the one seed,” said Po­plawski. “When the sea­son started, we were un­sure how easy wins would be to come by. But we ran through the Del Val league, and won a district game. We have a lot of young kids on this team, and this ex­pe­ri­ence will just make them hun­gry for more.”

The War­riors now move on to a game with Lower Me­rion with a guar­an­teed berth in the state tour­na­ment for the win­ner. The loser, while not elim­i­nated, will have to work its way through a gru­el­ing play­back bracket.

“Both us and Lower Me­rion will come in know­ing there’s a spot in states on the line,” said Ryan. “I’m sure it will be a very com­pet­i­tive game, like all the quar­ter­fi­nals in District 1 will be. It’s go­ing to be a tough fight. We need to come in at the top of our game. If not, the re­al­ity is we’ll get beat.”

BILL RU­DICK — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Ch­ester Hen­der­son’s Frank DeRosa and Penn Wood’s Ab­dulla Bar­rie bat­tle for a ball dur­ing Thurs­day’s play­off game.

BILL RU­DICK — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Penn Wood’s James Nmah, left, and Hen­der­son’s Max Zandi, right, vie for a ball Thurs­day night.

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