WEST CHESTER >> Before this season, the only teams in District 1 2A that qualified for the state tournament were the two district finalists. But with the new classifications, the district field expanded by eight teams, and now the top five move on the next leg of the journey to a PIAA championship.
No. 3 Henderson and No. 5 Upper Perkiomen both suffered quarterfinal losses, and were forced to play their way back in through the playback bracket, squaring off Friday afternoon at PennDOT field in West Chester for fifth place and the right to move on to states. Henderson’s Lexi Dunleavy scored a second half goal to give her team a 2-1 lead that would hold up as the final.
“We’ve been a AA team, so we were used to a lot of the AA field,” said Upper Perk coach Jamie Warren. “But the Chester County teams that came in were a bit of a mystery to us. We were a little uncertain coming in, but you just have to play your best field hockey whoever it is. Henderson played a great game, but I thought we played well too. I think they just might have been a little more aggressive that we were.”
The Indians struck first on a goal from Hope Flack not even two minutes in, but Henderson answered right back with a goal of its own from Maddie Ruether thirty seconds later.
“That seems to happen to us,” said the Warriors Jordyn Bauer. “When we give up a score, we don’t let it get in our heads. It just pumps us up that we have to step up our game.”
For the remainder of the half, and for much of the second half, Henderson controlled possessions, and until a late flurry by the Indians, held a 9-1 advantage in penalty corners. Eventually, the pressure resulted in a score, when Dunleavy connected from the top left of the circle to make good on a corner try.
“We just had to stay patient and feel confident that we’re going to get the job done,” said Dunleavy. “We trust each other as teammates and all believe that we’re going to get it done. It just feels great to know that we’re moving on to states.”
The Indians kept up pressure up until the final horn, at one point forcing four successive penalty corners in a two minute span, but the Warriors held on for the win.
“All I really knew about Upper Perk was that they always have a solid, fundamentally sound team,” said Warriors coach Jen O’Donnell, herself an Upper Perk alum. “I know the year we were district champs, they were the AA champs.”
The Warriors have a young team, but not an inexperienced one.
“These girls have been playing together a long time,” said O’Donnell. “They work hard, and work well together. The new classifications give more teams chances in the postseason. And any time you move up a level in the postseason, it’s great experience to build on for the ones coming back.”