Cougars up­ended by Pen­nridge

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Kev Hunter khunter@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @khunter10 on Twit­ter

EAST ROCK­HILL >> Prepa­ra­tion trans­formed into ex­e­cu­tion, sus­pense gave away to ju­bi­la­tion, and the Pen­nridge girls ful­filled their des­tiny Satur­day morn­ing, earn­ing a 1-0 vic­tory over Down­ing­town East to clinch a spot in the PIAA Class AAAA State Tour­na­ment, the Rams’ first state berth since 2012.

“We worked so hard for this,” said se­nior de­fender Dani Meenan. “States has been our goal for so long and it feels so great to fi­nally be on the road to get­ting it.”

“A lot of us have been starters since our sopho­more year,” se­nior mid­fielder Katie Fis­cher said, “and we fell short a few times so to get to this point is spe­cial.”

Meenan and Fis­cher were the tan­dem of the hour, hook­ing up in the open­ing min­utes of the con­test for what would be the win­ning goal in this District 1-4A quar­ter­fi­nal, played on a windy but sunny af­ter­noon on the turf

at Pen­nridge High.

“We’ve been play­ing to­gether for a while now so I know where she’s plac­ing the ball most of the time and it’s all we’ve been work­ing on at prac­tice — cor­ners and set pieces and free kicks just like that,” Fis­cher said. “So I get a re­ally good feel of where she’s plac­ing it and her con­sis­tency’s been pretty good so I was glad I was able to get on the end of it.”

Eleven min­utes and eight sec­onds in, Fis­cher got to a ball from Meenan, head­ing it into the left cor­ner and out of the reach of Cougars goalie Court­ney Dun­lop for a 1-0 Pen­nridge lead.

“We’ve prac­ticed that set piece so the sit­u­a­tion was great,” Rams coach Au­drey An­der­son said, “and we pride our­selves on our set pieces and our cor­ners, and for us to prac­tice a spe­cific play and for Dani to put that ball right where it went and for Katie to know that that’s where it was go­ing, it couldn’t have been any bet­ter.”

Third-seeded Pen­nridge looked pol­ished and ready.

“We had games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son where we strug­gled,” said Fis­cher, whose team will have the week­end to cel­e­brate be­fore get­ting ready for Wed­nes­day’s semi­fi­nal show­down at home against No. 7 Cen­tral Bucks South, a 1-0 win­ner over No. 2 Penns­bury Satur­day. “We weren’t sure when we were gonna reach our peak but I think we’re still on our way up right now.

“We have so much speed up top, our mid­field is very or­ga­nized and our backs are prob­a­bly the best in the area,” Fis­cher said. “I feel con­fi­dent in our team and I think we’re just gonna keep get­ting bet­ter.”

Pen­nridge gen­er­ated some more scor­ing chances the rest of the half but the No. 11 Cougars and Dun­lop hung in.

“We knew Pen­nridge

is a re­ally deep team,” East coach Craig Reed said. “They’re re­ally deep all over and they have a good coach. So we knew it was gonna be a bat­tle. We weath­ered the storm for the most part in the first half and I was re­ally proud how we played in the sec­ond half.

“The girls showed a lot of char­ac­ter and stepped up, and we pinned (Pen­nridge) in their half for large por­tions of the sec­ond half. I thought it was a lit­tle bit un­lucky for us to not get the equal­izer but I’m def­i­nitely proud of our girls and hats off to Pen­nridge — they’re a heck of a team.”

East still has life, now look­ing to get a pair of wins in district play­backs and se­cure the fifth and fi­nal spot in states. The Cougars will play Penns­bury on the road on Wed­nes­day.

“The way we played in the sec­ond half, against one of the top teams in the state, we wanna go for­ward with that and see if we can get th­ese two wins,” Reed said.

In the fi­nal 20 min­utes, the Rams with­stood some pres­sure from the Cougars to hold tight to the lead, nearly in­creas­ing it when a shot by Kennedy Peace sailed just wide of the net, one of the gusts swirling around Hel­man Field blow­ing it off course.

But ev­ery­thing else for the Rams stayed true.

“Th­ese se­niors are spe­cial to me,” An­der­son said. “I’ve known them since they were 10 years old — I coached a lot of them at the club level. So to share this with them, some­thing we talked about when they were 10 years old, like ‘hey wouldn’t it great if we go to states?,’ here it is.

“It’s some­thing we thought about for such a long time and now it’s here. And I think ev­ery­one just feels like ‘wow, we did it.’”

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