Con­estoga ad­vances to semis

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Dan Dunkin For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia @DanDunkin1 on Twit­ter

SHILLINGTON >> With the PIAA Class 4A quar­ter­fi­nal still score­less well into the sec­ond half Satur­day, Hemp­field looked far out of its com­fort zone.

In fact, the Black Knights could hardly pos­sess the ball in the Con­estoga zone.

The Pi­o­neers, mean­while, ap­peared as com­posed as if they had a 3-nil lead or were en­joy­ing a lit­tle scrim­mage along­side the winor-go-home high­way that takes you all over cre­ation in the state tour­na­ment. The no-to­mor­row clause just didn’t seem to ap­ply to them be­cause, well, talk about been there-done that …

They had been to this ex­act stage of states last year, and won, be­fore a heart­break­ing semi­fi­nal loss. They had been in

so many close games this sea­son that pres­sure be­came a friend, and, like a good friend, nearly al­ways came through. In all be­fore this state quar­ter­fi­nal, the Pi­o­neers had scored nine game-win­ning goals in the last 10 min­utes or over­time.

So, in the 40-de­gree chill at Gover­nor Mif­flin as the sun went down and the field lights came on, it was no sweat.

“We feel really con­fi­dent in each other, and we have a lot of com­po­sure,” said Con­estoga ju­nior mid­fielder Ro­drigo Martinez. “I feel we demon­strated that through­out the year.”

And they did so again, in the big­gest mo­ment yet, if not in the fi­nal 10 min­utes or OT. Martinez de­liv­ered the kill shot, scor­ing in the 65th minute to lift the Pi­o­neers to a 1-0 vic­tory and a re­turn trip to the state semis.

“It’s like a déjà vu mo­ment really,” said se­nior for­ward Ma­son Miller, whose sweet arc­ing corner kick set the win­ning play in mo­tion. “This year we’re just try­ing to go even far­ther.”

Hemp­field was go­ing nowhere slowly most of the day, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half, when the Black Knights barely had the ball and did not pro­duce a shot on goal un­til the 76th minute. As much as its back and mid­field, Con­estoga’s of­fense was its de­fense, the Pi­o­neers’ rhyth­mic posses­sion game of skilled passers and drib­blers com­pletely con­trol­ling the game.

“What helped us keep our com­po­sure was our quick 1-2 touch pass­ing,” Miller said. “We’re a really good posses­sion team, and we did a really good job with that to­day. We kept up the speed of play and that made them tired.”

Con­estoga, which had only three shots in the first half de­spite a ma­jor ball con­trol ad­van­tage, kept the pres­sure on. The Pi­o­neers had a hard time crack­ing Hemp­field sopho­more goal­keeper Tris­tan Green, who was ter­rific. Green made three im­pres­sive saves in the sec­ond half, the last a div­ing ef­fort to deny the rocket launch from Miller.

But the fourth good scor­ing op­por­tu­nity of the half was the charm for Con­estoga, as, per de­sign of the play prac­ticed many times, the Pi­o­neers read the de­fense and picked an op­tion. It ap­peard Mike McCarthy would try the shot from dead cen­ter 20 yards out when the corner kick came from Miller, but he skipped over it, giv­ing a touch to the ball back to Martinez, who stepped into it and banged it home.

“It really just comes down to com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ”Martinez said. “We’ve all got to be on the same page.”

Hemp­field’s only shot at ty­ing came with un­der 4 min­utes re­main­ing, when Kur­tis Ri­neer’s of­fer­ing near the box was saved eas­ily by Luke Smith.

While the Pi­o­neers made their posses­sion game look easy, make no mis­take: you don’t re­turn to the state semi­fi­nals with­out work­ing even harder than the year be­fore. Con­estoga coach David Zim­mer­man could re­flect proudly on the sub­stance his 23-1 team has shown in do­ing that.

“You look at all sports at all levels, and when you have a lot of suc­cess, usu­ally you come back the next year and it’s not there,” Zim­mer­man said. “How many teams re­peat? It’s some­thing about suc­cess that leads to fail­ure - at­ti­tude, work ethic.

“That was our theme at the very be­gin­ning of the sea­son: how we do we fol­low up what we did last year, and how dif­fi­cult it can be to find the mo­ti­va­tion to do all the work. It’s a credit to these guys. They’re a great group of guys, hard work­ers, and they 100 per­cent buy in.”

“Last year we ended the sea­son with a sour taste in our mouth,” Con­estoga de­fender Will Klein said. “And we want to re­deem our­selves and see if we can get to Her­shey.”

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