By NEIL GEOGHEGAN
WEST GOSHEN – The West Chester East field hockey squad wanted to get another shot at archrival West Chester Henderson in the worst way, but the Vikings had to top Great Valley in round one of the District 1 Playoffs to make it happen.
As a result, there was no looking past the visiting Patriots on Wednesday, and it showed in a 5-0 East triumph. It was the same score as an earlier regular season meeting, but both sides felt the postseason clash was more intense.
“It was different. Great Valley had a lot of intensity as well, and they put some pressure on us,” said Vikings’ head coach Taylor Shronk.
“This was 100-percent different,” agreed Great Valley head coach Stevie Winchester. “In the earlier game we kind of fell apart, and it was a game of individuals. I felt like tonight we played as a team. I was proud of them for fighting so hard.”
Now 12-7 overall and seeded sixth in the Class AA bracket, East will play at No. 3 Henderson on Friday. The Warriors edged the Vikings 3-2 in the lone regular season meeting.
“Ever since the first time we played, we’ve wanted to get another shot at them,” said senior Kelly Conlon, who led the way for East with two goals and an assist.
“I am beyond excited. I definitely want to beat them my senior year.”
The final score was not indicative of Tuesday’s battle, however. The Vikings had a slight edge in corners (11-10), and the Patriots equaled East with five shots on goal in the second half. But Great Valley never did get the ball past Vikings’ sophomore goaltender Nikki Bentley, who finished with seven saves.
“Our defense and our keeper, Nikki, have definitely grown,” Shronk said. “It was great to see, especially in the playoffs when you have to come up with big saves. Being able to shut a team out is awesome.”
Seeded 11th, the Patriots’ season ends with an 8-11 mark.
“Our team put the pressure on them but we just couldn’t finish,” Winchester said.
Right from the start, Great Valley keeper, Erin Kratzer, was under assault from the attacking Vikings. East only scored once in the opening eight minutes of action – Conlon’s first — but Kratzer faced seven shots on goal, and it clearly set a tone.
“We told the girls to be intense – this is the playoffs. It was really good, especially around the cage,” Shronk said.
“As we scored goals, we got more intense,” Conlon added. “We didn’t want to let up at all and let them get closer than the last time we played. We wanted to reinforce that we are the stronger team.”
West Chester broke it open with a pair of goals in the final eight minutes of the first half, with Lauren Fredericks scoring off a pass from Conlon, and then Nicole Fredericks finishing off a prolonged scramble in front of the Great Valley cage.
Conlon’s second goal (from Nicole Fredericks) made it 4-0 midway through the second half, and junior Callie Guerra wrapped up the scoring off a dish from Kinzie Thompson.
Undaunted, the Pats kept up the pressure own the stretch. Great Valley’s best chance to score came with just over three minutes on the clock, but Kate Rosecky’s shot from close range was steered away by Bentley.
“We really wanted to shut them out again,” Conlon said. “To get it to start out the postseason, that’s awesome.”
Up next is a Henderson squad that blasted Phoenixville, 8-0, on Wednesday.
“The playoffs are different, so you never know what will happen,” Shronk said. “It’s great to get a chance to play them again.”
West Chester East 5, Great Valley 0
Great Valley 0 0 – 0
W.C. East 3 2 – 5
W.C. East goals: Conlon 2, L. Fredericks, N. Fredericks, Guerra.
Goalie saves: Kratzer (GV) 14; Bentley (WCE) 7.