Donovan does it:

Ju­nior nets over­time win­ner for Conestoga

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

DOWN­ING­TOWN >> It wasn’t easy — es­pe­cially giv­ing up the equal­izer with less than seven min­utes left in reg­u­la­tion. But not once the rest of the way did the Conestoga boys’ soc­cer team ex­pe­ri­ence any sort of cri­sis of con­fi­dence.

The Cen­tral League cham­pi­ons and dis­trict fi­nal­ists have been in sim­i­lar po­si­tions many times before this fall, so it should be no sur­prise that Conestoga quickly re­grouped. And in over­time the Pioneers went on to reg­is­ter a 2-1 vic­tory over a stub­born Park­land squad in the open­ing round of the PIAA Class 4A Play­offs on Tues­day at DeSer­afino Sta­dium.

“This is the ninth game this sea­son that we’ve won in ei­ther the last 10 min­utes or in over­time,” said ’Stoga head coach David Zim­mer­man.

“We had been dom­i­nat­ing the en­tire sec­ond half, so there was no rea­son to worry. We were pretty con­fi­dent,” added for­ward Chris Donovan.

The game-win­ner — at the 13:21 mark of the OT — came off the foot of Donovan. It was the big­gest goal of the ju­nior’s high school ca­reer.

“It’s my first game-win­ner in over­time, so that goal will be re­mem­bered,” Donovan said.

“It was a cor­ner kick that went all the way over to the other side.

(De­fender) Mike McCarthy crossed it back in, Will Klein flicked it over to me,” he ex­plained. “I hon­estly wasn’t ex­pect­ing to get it, es­pe­cially with­out any de­fender on me.”

With the win, Conestoga ad­vances to the state quar­ter­fi­nals on Satur­day, where it will face Hemp­field, which beat Ne­shaminy Tues­day, 1-0. The Pioneers im­prove to 22-1 over­all.

“All I wanted to do this en­tire game was to get four more days with these guys. Now we have that,” Donovan said.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games, and we tried to sched­ule a tough reg­u­lar sea­son to chal­lenge us, so we’ve been in this type of sit­u­a­tion before,” Zim­mer­man added.

Af­ter more than 65 min­utes of score­less soc­cer, Conestoga fi­nally broke through. Se­nior Gabe Harms went wide to beat a de­fender, and he cen­tered it to a wide open Ma­son Miller, who fired it into the back of the net.

But the lead didn’t last long. With 6:40 re­main­ing, Park­land’s Owen Ia­co­belli stunned the Pioneers with a laser that caught the up­per right cor­ner of the ’Stoga net.

“It was a great shot,” Zim­mer­man said. “I haven’t seen too many like that this sea­son.

“But we felt like we dom­i­nated the sec­ond half, so we didn’t see any rea­son

why we couldn’t con­tinue to do so.

“Part of it is we just wear teams out with our depth. When you have a fresh­ness ad­van­tage, it starts to show in the lat­ter por­tion of the match. This pat­tern wasn’t un­usual for us.”

Fol­low­ing a lack­lus­ter first half, Conestoga picked up the pres­sure to start the sec­ond half and came close to break­ing the dead­lock twice. In the open­ing five min­utes, Ro­drigo Martinez’s blast hit cleanly off the near post. And about six min­utes later Miller’s shot was poked away at the last sec­ond by div­ing Park­land keeper Ja­cob Ver­rato.

Although the Pioneers had the ter­ri­to­rial edge in the first half, it was Park­land’s Joshua Kiser had the two best early scor­ing chances. The first was a header that nearly got be­hind ’Stoga keeper, Luke Smith, and the sec­ond was a blast that just cleared the cross­bar.

“You never know,” Zim­mer­man said. “You can’t make any as­sump­tions. Soc­cer is such a low scor­ing game, in gen­eral, that a goal here or there is huge. Credit to Park­land. They are a very nice team.”

Park­land, the sec­ond­seed from Dis­trict 11, fin­ishes its sea­son at 174-3.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST MEDIA

Henderson’s Frank DeRosa shoots on Cum­ber­land Val­ley goalie Matt Zam­betti Tues­day.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST MEDIA

Park­land de­fender Daw­son Berger loses con­trol of the ball to Conestoga’s Nick Jen­nings in the sec­ond half.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST MEDIA

Conestoga’s Gabe Harms (1) bat­tles with Park­land’s Collin Duff (23) as the Pioneers won, 2-1, in over­time.

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