DOWNINGTOWN >> It was, admittedly, a slow start. But after getting a bit of an early wakeup call, West Chester Henderson responded forcefully and proceeded to clobber Cumberland Valley, 6-2, in first round action of the PIAA Class 4A tournament Tuesday at DeSerafino Stadium.
“Putting six in is not a total shock to us in terms of what we can do,” said Warriors’ head coach Sean Ryan. “It’s a talented group and when they put things together, really great things can happen.”
Now 22-1 overall, the reigning District 1 champions advanced to the state quarterfinals, where they will meet North Penn on Saturday. A year ago, Henderson was knocked out of the tournament in the quarters.
“To get beyond the state quarterfinals — for the first time since early in the last decade — is a big motivating factor,” Ryan acknowledged.
“This is the last shot, so they want to have as much success as they possibly can. They know this is a special group and they just want to make the most of every opportunity they have.”
The start, however, was not ideal. Just over 10 minutes into the action, Cumberland Valley’s Holden Zimmerman scored on a header off a corner kick. But instead of sewing any seeds of doubt, the Warriors roared back about two minutes later to tie it, and then three minutes later, Henderson took the lead for good.
“This is an experienced group, they’ve played a lot of playoff games and they’ve been down before and come back,” Ryan pointed out. “So they knew they could do it and kept with the plan.”
Senior Richie Schlentz scored first off an assist from Frank DeRosa, and then freshman Kevin Kiefer hit paydirt after talking a pass from Aiden McFadden.
“We came out flat,” said McFadden, who wound up leading the way with two goals and an assist. “It’s disappointing, but the response was great.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of pace, to be honest. It wasn’t the best start. (Cumberland Valley) capitalized on it, and it was definitely a wakeup call. We needed a response and Richie (Schlentz) gave us that, and then a few minutes later (Kevin) Kiefer added a goal, and from there we were rolling.”
McFadden notched his first – on a header off a pass from Charlie Collins – with about three minutes remaining in the first half, and the Warriors took a 3-1 lead into the intermission.
“I think we were able to kick it up to another gear after we went down a goal,” Ryan said.
Soon after McFadden added his second goal midway through the second half thanks to a pass from teammate K.J. Walkes, Zimmerman scored again for Cumberland Valley to make it 4-2. But Henderson responded once again, finishing the Eagles off with a pair of DeRosa goals in the final 7:17.
“Frank is a kid that plays until the final whistle,” McFadden said.
“We talk about that,” Ryan added. “We don’t want to give a team any room to breathe once we have the momentum, so we press aggressively. Even when they cut it to 4-2, we could have gone into a shell and hunkered down, but we kept pushing and really killed the game off.”
In all, the Warriors outshot the third-seeded team from District 3,17-7. Henderson is now 18-0-1 in its last 19 matches. Cumberland Valley falls to 15-7.
“We are rounding into a good place,” Ryan said. “Toward the end of the season, we were fortunate to get healthy. Once that happened, we started to click into place and in a lot of ways we’ve been flying ever since. Now, the challenge is to keep that rolling on Saturday against North Penn.”