DOWNINGTOWN >> A first round bye can be a double edged sword. To earn one, it means you’ve played well enough to be a high seed. But it also means you’re facing an opponent that already has a game—and the playoff jitters that can accompany—behind them while you were on an extended break. It’s a problem Downingtown West was all too familiar with, as a year ago, the Whippets took an early exit after earning the bye with the sixth seed.
This season, The Whippets parlayed a Ches-Mont National Division championship season into the third seed, and another bye, and would be facing the tough task of playing a team that knew them from the regular season in Oxford. On top of that, the Hornets were coming off an emotional upset win over Spring-Ford, the first playoff win in coach AnneMarie Anderson’s nearly decade long tenure as head coach.
But if the Whippets had any cobwebs to clean out, it didn’t show, as West notched five goals in the first half, and rode the lead to the fi
nish line to advance to the quarterfinals with a 5-1 victory on a chilly Wednesday afternoon at Kottmeyer stadium.
The Whippets advance to the quarterfinals against No. 6CB East, a 2-1 winner over Owen J. Roberts.
“We all remember what it felt like last year,” said West senior Jenna Garber, who is credited with a pair of the Whippets goals on the day. “And we knew from playing them early that Oxford has some very good players that could score. So it was big for us to get that first goal and a big lead early.”
Just over six minutes in, West was awarded a penalty corner. Claudia Jasczak got the ball at the top of the circle, and put a pass on the stick of Garber, who banged off the back of the cage to give her team a 1-0 advantage.
Oxford battled right back, and forced a pair of corners of their own just minutes later. But goalie Caitlyn Coker and her defensive teammates kept the Hornets out of the cage, like they have for much of the season.
“Caitlyn made some nice saves for us in the first half, and if any of those gets in, it might have been a different game,” said West coach Jeff Riccardo. “We’ve been really solid defensively all year. Our backs have been very solid.”
Before the end of the first half, the Whippets added four more goals, one each from Laine Garber, Taylor Orsi and Tatum Johnson, and a second one from Jenna Garber.
“We played a good game, but not our best game,” said Riccardo. “This is a good team, and we’re the three seed for a reason. I thought we made our passes and played well.”
Oxford finally got on the board with about twenty minutes to play, when Stanford-bound Sarah Johnson broke through with a goal. And while the Hornets were just one of a handful of teams all season to avoid the shutout, it was the last goal of the season for Oxford, and for the high school career of Johnson.
“It’s all been a great experience,” said Johnson. “It’s hard to have it end like this, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be with any other team or with any other girls. We got better and improved every year, and I’ll be looking for the girls coming back to do even better than we did.”
Johnson, and all of her fellow seniors, are leaving big shoes to fill.
“We went from not qualifying, to getting one district game, this year we got a win, and next year we push for three or more games,” said Anderson. “I can’t say enough about Sarah and all the seniors. There are going to be some big shoes to fill, but we’ll be back and we’ll try our best to keep improving.”
West will be looking for revenge come Friday when they host No. 6 CB East in a game that clinches a state tournament bid. The Patriots were 3-2 overtime winners over the Whippets back in the first game of the season.
“We’ll be ready,” said West coach Jeff Riccardo. “We do the things we’re capable, we’re going to beat a lot of teams. If we do those things all the time and not 50-60 percent of the time like today, we’ll go far.”
Oxford 0 1 –1
DWest 5 0 –5
DWest—Jgarber (2), L Garber, T Orsi, Johnson
Goalie Saves—Bartos (OX) 5, Coker (DW) 6