Tredyffrin – Each time the Conestoga boys’ soccer team takes the field, they do so with a target on their back.
Tuesday evening against visiting Harriton was no different, as the hosts broke open a close game in the second half to post a 5-1 win over their Central League rivals in key match-up at Teamer Field.
“Before each game in the locker room we start off saying we have a target on our back and every team wants to beat us and it really motivates us to come out strong,” said Conestoga junior Nick Jennings, who finished the night with one goal and one assist. “Just knowing other teams want to beat us we have to come out strong in both halves and play our best.”
Holding a 2-1 lead at halftime, Conestoga emerged from the locker room and came out strong with the combination of Jennings and fellow junior Chris Donovan teaming up to score two of Conestoga’s next three goals to break open a close game and give the hosts a 4-1 lead with 12:06 to play.
“Chris and I have been playing basketball and soccer together since we were eight years old so we have built a good chemistry that we know where each other is on the field,” Jennings said.
Donovan, who finished with two goals and one assist, said, “I believe those second half goals knocked down some of their motivation to keep going. To beat another Main Line team is always nice.”
Conestoga head coach Dave Zimmerman added, “They (Chris and Nick) play on the same club team so it does not surprise me they have great chemistry. They know where each other is on the field and they are both great passers and finishers.”
Conestoga jumped out of the gates quickly scoring in the first 30 seconds when they capitalized on a set piece that was served into the box by senior Blaise Milanek (committed to Lehigh) and finished by Will Klein, who beat Harriton keeper Jake Putnam.
Following the quick start, the Harriton defense firmed up and went on the attack placing Conestoga on their heels for the next 10 minutes. During that time, the Rams netted the equalizer when Alex Cades converted a set piece when he placed the shot on goal that would deflect off the Conestoga wall and into the back of the net.
Just before halftime, Conestoga began to regain their offensive spark and finally found the back of the net with 5:23 left when Logan Schwartz beat Putnam with a header off a Milanek set piece into the box.
With his focus geared toward formulating a new defense, Zimmerman saw glimpses of that chemistry coming together as his defense was able to overcome some early turnovers and hold yet another opponent to one goal or less. Early this season, Conestoga held perennial powers Central Bucks South and West Chester Henderson to a combined one goal.
“Defense wins championships, right?” said Zimmerman, following the contest. “All season we have been focusing on developing our defense and I thought they played well but I still think we can be better. I credit Harriton tonight for putting us on our heels but I was happy to see us overcome and continue to work hard and come away with the win.”
Conestoga 5, Harriton 1
Harriton 1 0 – 1
Conestoga 2 3 – 5
Conestoga goals: Chris Donovan 2, Nick Jennings, Will Klein, Nino Mauro.
Harriton goal: own goal.
Goalie saves: Jake Putnam (H) 10; Luke Smith (C) 5.