Con­estoga ad­vances to District 1 Semi­fi­nals

Dono­van’s goal puts Con­estoga into District 1 semi­fi­nals

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Austin Hert­zog ahert­zog@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @AustinHert­zog on Twit­ter

TREDYFFRIN >> The fol­low-up is of­ten the hardest part.

For the Con­estoga girls soc­cer team dur­ing Satur­day’s District 1 Class AAAA quar­ter­fi­nal against Spring-Ford, the fol­low-up was the best part.

Ju­nior de­fender Han­nah Mor­gan was go­ing to do her part to get on the end of se­nior Madie French’s cor­ner kick five min­utes into the sec­ond half of a score­less game. Af­ter that, noth­ing was a given.

“Any cor­ner we get, with Han­nah in the box, she’s go­ing to get on the end of it and be dan­ger­ous. She’s done a good job all sea­son get­ting to the ball and get­ting the ini­tial touch but we haven’t al­ways had the peo­ple fol­low­ing in.”

Fresh­man Caitlin Dono­van pro­vided the miss­ing piece as she scored the re­bound of Mor­gan’s shot that hit the near-side post to send Con­estoga well on its way to a 2-0 vic­tory over Spring-Ford to claim a berth into the PIAA Cham­pi­onships and ad­vance to the District 1-AAAA semi­fi­nals.

Ju­nior mid­fielder Ariel Lo­evy poached on a de­fen­sive mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion by the Rams with un­der 14 min­utes re­main­ing to put the fi­nal touches on a com­pre­hen­sive fourth-seeded Pi­o­neers’ per­for­mance that handed No. 5

Spring-Ford its first loss of the sea­son (20-1-1).

Not a bad fol­low-up to last year’s five-win sea­son for the Pi­o­neers.

Con­estoga moves on to the district’s fi­nal four to face top seed Neshaminy – a 1-0 win­ner over Down­ing­town West Satur­day – on Wed­nes­day at Neshaminy.

Spring-Ford en­ters play­backs for the district’s fifth and fi­nal place in states – it will host No. 9 Down­ing­town West on Wed­nes­day – a road the Rams know quite well. Spring-Ford tra­versed that path in 2013 and 2014 to reach states.

“Un­for­tu­nately we know it all too well,” Rams head coach Tim Ley­land said. “Last year was the first year we got through the ‘easy way’ where we ad­vanced to the semis; this year will be a lit­tle tougher. Now you’re in a four-team tour­na­ment for one spot. That puts a lot of pres­sure on you hon­estly be­cause your sea­son is on the line ev­ery game you play.”

On Satur­day, the pres­sure came vig­or­ously from the Pi­o­neers (15-1-4), a pro­gram that is re­turn­ing to district promi­nence un­der first-year head coach Ben Wil­son, who last year guided the Epis­co­pal Academy girls’ team to an In­terAc ti­tle.

“We only won five games last year so it’s a huge turn­around. It’s over­whelm­ing,” Mor­gan said. “Ev­ery­one was just so dis­ap­pointed with last year that we re­ally wanted to turn around so ev­ery­one is work­ing hard at prac­tice, putting in the time and wants to get bet­ter. Our mind­sets have changed.”

The ball pres­sure of Stoga’s back four (Mor­gan, Jor­dan Roe, Cal­ista Court­ney and Dana Cic­chitti) and mid­field (Ceara Sweeney, Rachel DiRico and Cait­lyn Eller­beck) left SpringFord short of the time of the ball it craves. So much so, it seemed like a Pi­o­neer player blocked al­most ev­ery Rams’ pass for stretches of the game.

“They closed down ev­ery­thing, they pres­sured ev­ery­thing and won a lot of balls in the mid­field. I thought they did a great job,” Ley­land said. “There’s a rea­son they’re a one-loss team.

“I don’t know what it was, we were just a lit­tle off. We weren’t our nor­mal selves. We didn’t have any juice. Our com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pass­ing were off. But that’s to their credit be­cause they forced us to be off. We didn’t do it to our­selves, they forced us to be that way. They were very good and they de­serve all the credit.”

Con­estoga was nearly on top early when Dono­van was played in down the right side. Her lofted shot grazed the cross­bar and was even­tu­ally cleared by Juliana Alessan­droni. Stoga’s other best chance of the first half was Mor­gan car­ry­ing the ball from the back line through the mid­field and free­ing Lo­evy with a through ball. Lo­evy’s shot from the right was saved by SF keeper Amanda Byrd (three saves), but could have been a penalty kick if Lo­evy had gone to ground on Libby An­drews’ tackle on the edge of the 18-yard box.

Con­estoga, which led in shots on goal 4-2 and goal at­tempts 8-6, re­mained the brighter team into the sec­ond half af­ter a 0-0 first half. They were re­warded af­ter a jail­break coun­ter­at­tack fol­low­ing a SpringFord cor­ner kick that was thwarted by Molly McHarg for a Con­estoga cor­ner. French sent the cor­ner to­ward Mor­gan, whose ris­ing right-footed ef­fort struck the point where the right post and cross­bar meet. But it fell to Dono­van, who chested it down and nailed it across goal for the 1-0 lead at the 34:28 mark.

“Han­nah hit it off the cross­bar and I saw the loose ball and I just went for it,” Dono­van said.

“I wanted it! I re­ally wanted it re­ally bad,” Mor­gan said, “but I was glad Caitlin was there to put it in.”

Spring-Ford fi­nally mus­tered a cou­ple chances on a KK O’Don­nell header of Claire Sites’ free kick and Alessan­droni play­ing a short cross to Kelly Franz but Stoga keeper Colleen Bald­win (two saves) closed the chance down quickly.

Once Lo­evy got her re­ward with 13:28 to play for the 2-0 lead, Con­estoga could see its fu­ture.

“That lit­tle edge of ruth­less­ness is what sep­a­rates re­ally good teams from each other, just hav­ing that last lit­tle drive in there to score,” coach Wil­son said.

Wil­son in­sists he didn’t have to re­shape too much of the past in the process.

“To be hon­est, I don’t think I did any­thing to rein­vent the wheel, I just saw the abil­ity of the play­ers we had here,” he said.

Con­versely, Spring-Ford’s fu­ture is a ‘mys­tery.’ Not that they haven’t been there be­fore.

“We have a say­ing with the team, it’s corny but, ‘Yes­ter­day is his­tory, to­mor­row is a mys­tery, but to­day is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.’ We use it all the time and we’re go­ing to have to use it this week as we re­ju­ve­nate,” Ley­land said. “Some­times tak­ing a loss, we don’t want to take a loss this time of year, but maybe it will reen­er­gize and re­fo­cus us.”

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­estoga’s Madie French, right, joins the cel­e­bra­tion af­ter Caitlin Dono­van, white head­band, scored the open­ing goal on a re­bound dur­ing Satur­day’s District 1 Class AAAA girls soc­cer quar­ter­fi­nal against Spring-Ford on Satur­day.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Spring-Ford’s Libby An­drews tries to clear the ball away from Con­estoga’s Caitlin Dono­van on Satur­day.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­estoga’s Han­nah Mor­gan (11) avoids Spring-Ford’s Alayna Gairo as she car­ries the ball for­ward Satur­day.

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