PHILADELPHIA >> The Downingtown West players had good memories when the Cardinal O’Hara team was mentioned as the Whippets’ first-round opponent in the PIAA Class 3A field hockey tournament.
Junior midfielder Romea Riccardo knew more than many of her teammates what it would be like to face the Lions and their standout midfielder, Makayla Gallen, for a second time this season.
“We’ve been (club) teammates with WC Eagles,” Riccardo said. “I knew what a great player she is and how we had to know where she was all the time when we were playing against her.”
Riccardo spent some time breaking up O’Hara penalty corners, on which Gallen can be extremely dangerous, and also found time to score a pair of goals in the second half as Downingtown West, the fourth seed from District 1, knocked off the District 12 champion Lions, 5-1, in a state tournament opener at Benjamin L. Johnston Memorial Stadium in Germantown Wednesday night.
The Whippets (17-5) were seeking to reverse their 2-1 loss to O’Hara (20-2) last month in a game in which Gallen scored the winning goal on a penalty stroke.
“Some of the seniors on this team were freshmen on the last team we had that made states,” West coach Liz Morrow said. “And that team lost in the first round at Emmaus.
“Today we were able to bounce back from our two (district playoff) losses last week and find the back of the cage better than the last time we played (Cardinal O’Hara). Some of that was because of our penalty corners. We haven’t been able to do as much as we wanted on our corners recently.”
Sophomore forward Julianna Smyth was able to tip in a penalty corner drive by Riccardo in the 22nd minute for the only goal of the first half, in which West was awarded seven corners to four for O’Hara.
“We knew this would be a tough game and goals might not come that easy,” said Smyth, who has committed to play field hockey at Wake Forest. “We all wanted to make sure we got a win at states, and now we can think about going to practice for the next three days and playing another game.”
Freshman Ciana Riccardo doubled West’s lead on the Whippets’ first penalty corner of the second half, then Smyth finished a play initiated by junior Taylor Orsi less than five minutes later.
Cardinal O’Hara got its only goal on a penalty corner, with Hannah Nihill knocking the ball into the cage off a feed from Gallen with just under 18 minutes to play.
Four minutes later, it was Romea Riccardo, who will play at the University of North Carolina, completing a corner play with her first goal. Three minutes after that score she fired in a penalty stroke to put the finishing touches on West’s win.
“We never gave up,” said Gallen, who is headed to the University of Virginia. “Even in the last five minutes, when we knew what the result was going to be, we never gave up.
“We knew they would do what they could to try to stop me. But I’m not the only player on this team. We had 11 good players on the field. We knew we’d be without (injured defender Liz Tosto), so we wanted to try to do it for her today.”
O’Hara coach Marie Murphy had a tough time addressing her players for the last time following the game.
“They were a wonderful group of girls,” Murphy said. “And I was blessed and privileged to have had the chance to be with them throughout (the season).
“The pace of this game just wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We wish Downingtown West the best in their remaining games. We just didn’t want to have our season end the way it did.”