LIONVILLE >> In round one of the District 1 3A field hockey playoffs, Downingtown East reeled off four unanswered goals in the final 12 minutes of action to bust open a tight affair and eventually oust visiting Souderton, 6-2, on a breezy Monday afternoon.
The 15th-seeded Cougars notched their first five goals off corners, and it was no coincidence senior standout Kathryn Sheerer was involved in them all. A Boston University commit, Sheerer finished with a goal and four assists, powering East to round two for a rematch with Central League power Conestoga.
“Everything really goes through Kathryn on corners, but we are a threatening team because we had a lot of individuals who can score,” said Cougars’ head coach Julie Martelli.
“Corners are a free opportunity, and it should be a goal,” Sheerer added. “We’ve worked hard throughout the season on our corners. It was impressive this game.”
East (10-8-1 overall) will get another shot at second-seeded ’Stoga on Wednesday. The Pioneers prevailed, 4-3, in a regular season meeting on Sept. 6.
“We are the underdog, but that’s a good place for us,” Martelli said. “We know what to expect, plus I’m sure we will be overlooked because we lost to them earlier.”
Playing in its first District 1 contest since 2012, Souderton held the lead for most of the first half, and was in a 2-2 deadlock until fading late. The 18th-seeded Indians end the season with a 9-9-1 overall mark.
“It’s kind of been a theme this season, where we’ve out-shot and out-cornered teams, but something in us gives out,” said Souderton head coach Nicole Bauer. “It’s always about heart and passion. When the two teams are evenly matched, it goes to the team that wants it a little bit more.”
The Indians had a 15-12 edge in corners, but the Cougars were more efficient with their opportunities, particularly late. With the scored tied 2-2 midway through the second half, Downingtown East started buzzing around the Souderton goal and eventually scored what wound up being the game-winner. Anna Effinger fought hard to win a corner for the Cougars, and Sheerer dished it off to teammate Jessica Wilcox for her second goal of the day with 11:11 remaining.
That seemed to open the floodgates, as East added three more insurance goals the rest of the way.
“We like to build, and that’s what we did. We came out stronger in second half. Our mentality was we either win or go home, and that really sparked us,” Martelli said.
“At halftime, coach gave us a talk and from there we were more efficient,” Sheerer added. “We had a plan, we stuck with it and were able to finish.
“I feel like we started frustrating (Souderton) by possessing the ball. It seemed like we were building while they were crumbling. And the more goals we scored, the more confident we became.”
The start was much more problematic for the Cougars. Nina Disco opened the scoring for the Indians very early off an assist from Courtney Kenah, and East didn’t respond until Caroline Webb finally broke the scoring drought with 1:24 remaining before intermission.
“Once we scored, we kind of took some momentum into the break and the second half,” Martelli said.
Sheerer and Wilcox combined once again on a goal off a corner in the first five minutes of the second half, but Disco came right back and finished off an extended period of pressure by Souderton about seven minutes later to tie it up.
“(Souderton) had some scary and dangerous shots and they had a ton of corners,” Martelli said. “We were fortunate they weren’t able to capitalize on more of them. The score would have been very different if they had.”
In addition to Wilcox’s two goals, Webb registered a pair and Kayla Barr wrapped it up with a goal in the final minute.
“We were patient on defense and we worked until the ball went in the goal,” Martelli explained. “Scoring always helps with that.”
Disco scored both of the Indians goals and Jessica Gabriel chipped in with an assist.
“This group accomplished more than they expected or hoped to,” Bauer said. “For our younger girls, I am excited we were able to at least experience districts.
“(Downingtown East) plays a different style than we are used to in the Suburban One. I thought we defended it well in the first half, and then something just gave in the second half.”
Downingtown East 6, Souderton 2
Souderson 1 1 – 2
Downingtown East 1 5 – 6
Souderton goals: Disco 2.
Downingtown East goals: Wilcox 2, Webb 2, Sheerer, Barr.
Goalie saves: Febus (S) 6; Irwin (DE) 6.