EAST MARLBOROUGH >> The pre-match title implications actually involved four different teams in both of the Ches-Mont divisions, and were, quite frankly, a bit confusing. But the bottom line – with the winner grabbing sole possession of a championship – was easy to understand.
The Unionville girls’ soccer squad, however, squared off on Thursday against visiting Downingtown West completely unaware of the heady ramifications. That’s because Indians head coach Joe Ratasiewicz consciously decided not to tell his players, and he was happy with the decision after Unionville handed the Whippets their first conference setback, 1-0.
“I never told them. We just play one game at a time,” he said.
“We have three starters out for the season, including two senior captains – Maddy Malloy and Liz Koehler. This team has battled through adversity, so I didn’t want to put any more pressure on them than necessary.”
There was also another reason. The Indians (9-2-1, 11-4-2 overall) have to take care of business in Friday’s regular season finale against Octorara (4-8 Ches-Mont) in order to officially capture the Ches-Mont American championship.
“We haven’t won anything until we win (Friday),” Ratasiewicz said. “I am proud of our players for sticking together. If this winds up being a championship season, it’s a surprise given all of the adversity we’ve had.”
Junior midfielder Salem Carlow notched the only goal of the evening, and afterwards she was quite surprised to learn that her team is now closing in on a title.
“I just heard someone say that if we beat Octorara, we will win the division,” she said. “Is that true?”
When told that it was, indeed true, and that the big win moved the Indians past West Chester Rustin and into first place, she added: “That’s crazy. Wow.
“All we knew was that Downingtown West was the No. 1 team in our league and we just went as hard as we could.”
It was a bitter setback for Downingtown West (11-1-1, 12-3-2), who now has to share the Ches-Mont National crown with West Chester Henderson.
“Of course, we wanted it all by ourselves, but being the Ches-Mont National champs is one of the goals the girls decided to pursue very early on,” Whippets head coach Mary Schanne. “They achieved that goal.”
It was a classic defensive battle with both sides having a few quality scoring chances. West may have had a few more in the opening half, but the Indians finally broke the deadlock when Carlow found the net from point-blank range in the midst of a scramble with 35.8 seconds on the clock. Teammate Gabrielle White notched the assist as her free kick nearly went in, but bounced off the crossbar, then off the hands of Whippets keeper Morgan O’Loughlin and bounced free to Carlow.
“After it bounced off the crossbar and hit the goaltender, then I just ran up and knocked it in,” Carlow explained. “We are taught to crash the net, go after the ball and never let down until it goes in.
“It was such an adrenaline rush.”
Downingtown West’s best scoring chance came in the opening minutes of the second half, when Gina Peraino got off a blast that was redirected out of harm’s way by a diving Unionville goaltender, Katie Borlie. Moments later, Sammie Sipes had another promising shot, but it was directly at Borlie. In addition, speedy sophomore Sydney Amparo added a couple more prime scoring opportunities that were also turned away.
“(Downingtown West is) a strong team, so we just wanted to withstand the first 10 minute onslaught – it seemed like 30,” Ratasiewicz said.
“In the first half and early in the second half, we played our game, we possessed the ball,” Schanne added. “We have some things to figure out in terms of getting better quality finishing opportunities.”
West wound up with an 8-4 shots on goal advantage, in addition to a 3-0 edge in corner kicks, but had difficulty getting through the Unionville defense, anchored by midfielder Erin Garvey and backed up by Borlie.
“Erin Garvey is like a brick wall,” Carlow said.
“I thought our keeper had a tremendous game, and so did our left back, Lyndsey Barrett. Both of them are freshman,” Ratasiewicz said.
In the final 15 minutes of action, the Whippets were never really able to mount much offensively. Unionville’s only second half threat came on yet another set piece play, when White nearly knocked in another off a free kick, but the shot headed just over the West net.
“It took us a while this season to get used to one another, and we are playing a different style,” Ratasiewicz explained. “We’re not as technical as Downingtown West, so we are playing a more direct style and it seems to be working for this group. Things are coming together and I am happy for them.”
Carlow said: “We have progressively gotten better all season. I can’t believe we just beat (Downingtown West). It’s insane. A lot of hard work has paid off.”
Unionville 1, Downingtown West 0
Downingtown West 0 0 – 0
Unionville 1 0 – 1
Unionville goal: Carlow.
Goalie saves: O’Loughlin (DW) 4; Borlie (U) 8.