Hen­der­son’s run ends in state semi­fi­nals

Hen­der­son stymied in penalty kicks in state semi­fi­nal

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Stover js­tover@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mer­curyXS­tover on Twit­ter

EX­ETER » It was quite a warm-up Austin Den­linger got Tues­day.

El­iz­a­beth­town’s ju­nior goal­keeper made a to­tal of 11 stops — some of them of high­light-film qual­ity — dur­ing the 110 com­bined min­utes of reg­u­la­tion and over­time play in a PIAA Class AAAA play­off semi­fi­nal with West Ch­ester Hen­der­son. So when the game came down to penalty kicks, Den­linger was ready.

Den­linger ended up touched for the only two kicks the War­riors were able to get past him all night, in the PK phase. But more im­por­tantly, he made a pair of crit­i­cal blocks while his El­iz­a­beth­town team­mates were per­fect on their four tries in PKs to stun District 1 cham­pion Hen­der­son, 0-0 (4-2 on penalty kicks), at Ex­eter High School to reach the state ti­tle game.

“Coach works with me a lot in prac­tice,” he said af­ter se­cur­ing the Bears’ qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Satur­day’s state-cham­pi­onship game. “That paid off.”

Den­linger’s first block came on Hen­der­son’s sec­ond penalty kick, af­ter both teams made their first tries. The Bears went up 3-2 af­ter three rounds, and af­ter Den­linger blocked the War­riors’ sec­ond try, they sewed up the hard-fought vic­tory with Braden Krei­der’s con­nec­tion for a 4-2 score in the tiebreak­ing phase.

“We’re for­tu­nate to have a good goal­keeper,” El­iz­a­beth­town head coach James Sostack said while his play­ers were cel­e­brat­ing their first state-ti­tle qual­i­fi­ca­tion in their coach’s 23-year ten­ure. “Aus-

tin is on fire when it comes to penalty kicks.”

The loss in PKs was par­tic­u­larly dev­as­tat­ing for Hen­der­son (22-2-1), which came into the semi­fi­nal ranked third in Penn­syl­va­nia and 26th na­tion­ally. Mak­ing it even more dev­as­tat­ing was how the War­riors dom­i­nated the sta­tis­tics in reg­u­la­tion and OT: A 12-1 edge in shots on goal, and a whop­ping 12-1 dif­fer­en­tial in cor­ner shots.

“I thought we played a hell of a game,” Hen­der­son head coach Sean Ryan said. “We cre­ated a lot of chances.”

But the eight shots they got off dur­ing reg­u­la­tion — those that Den­linger didn’t stop — hit off the foot­ball goal post or the goalcage up­rights. And the Etown de­fense pro­vided an equally-yeo­man ef­fort on the cor­ners, clear­ing the ball away from the net time and time again.

“Their keeper had a hell of a night,” Ryan said. “Some­times, that’s just the way the game goes. Penalty kicks ... they’re pretty much a coin flip.”

Frank DeRosa gave Hen­der­son first blood in the PKs, get­ting the ball past Den­linger. David Shank pulled the Bears even on their first try, get­ting it past the War­riors’ Brady McSwain.

In the sec­ond round, Den­linger got the stop on Zach Roberts. The teams ex­changed con­verted kicks in the third, Ai­den McFad­den for Hen­der­son and Ai­den Grey Fer­tich for El­iz­a­beth­town.

The fourth round saw Char­lie Collins’ kick stopped by Den­linger. Krei­der then fol­lowed with the clincher.

“This is the third time we’ve had a game in penalty kicks,” Den­linger noted. “Those first two games were a ben­e­fit to us.”

Hen­der­son’s de­fense was ev­ery bit the equal of Etown’s on the night. McSwain wasn’t re­quired to make any saves prior to the PK seg­ment, com­ple­ment­ing an of­fense that kept the ac­tion at the Bears’ end of the field for long pe­ri­ods of the game.

“In the long run, it was a hell of a year for us,” Ryan said of his District 1-AAAA cham­pi­onship club. “It’s a dis­ap­point­ment, this way it ended.”

In the mean­time, El­iz­a­beth­town (22-4-1) will face Con­estoga 6:30 p.m. Satur­day at Her­shey­park Sta­dium. The Pioneers, who fin­ished sec­ond to Hen­der­son in the District 1 play­offs, ad­vanced with a 1-0 win over North Al­legheny in the bracket’s other semi­fi­nal.

“I’m glad to have these guys go­ing with me,” Den­linger said.

NOTES » Dur­ing the penalty kicks, Sostack faced away from the west-side goal where the ac­tion was be­ing staged, Down on one knee and with eyes closed, he ap­peared in a pos­ture of pray­ing. “I did some pray­ing there,” he said with a laugh. “It’s also su­per­sti­tion.” ... This year’s state semi­fi­nal was Hen­der­son’s fur­thest ad­vance in the state tour­na­ment to date. “The last 12 years, we’ve been so tough,” he said. “The kids poured all into this.”


Frank DeRosa (13) con­soles Char­lie Collins dur­ing the penalty kick shootout in the PIAA Class AAAA boys soc­cer semi­fi­nal against El­iz­a­beth­town at Ex­eter High School.


El­iz­a­beth­town goalie Austin Den­linger keeps the ball out of the net from a header by Hen­der­son’s Jared Matthias (24) in the sec­ond half Tues­day.


El­iz­a­beth­town’s Braden Krei­der re­acts af­ter scor­ing past Hen­der­son goalie Brady McSwain in the pwnalty kick shootout Tues­day.

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