WEST GOSHEN >> Winning on the road can always be a tough task, as unfamiliar territory can lead to players stepping outside of their character, and to a team coming unglued.
Downingtown East exhibited some of these traits early on in its 13-7 victory over West Chester East on a strange Wednesday afternoon that ranged from sweltering hot to breezy and brisk, but the Cougars managed to regroup. East burst out of the gates in a vigorous second half, including a big fourth quarter push that took West Chester East’s deficit from manageable to insurmountable.
D-East had stepped outside the comfy confines of its home turf for its first road contest in six games, and captain Danny Zahniser believed being away, paired with the intense heat, is why the Cougars got off to a sluggish start.
“The first half we came out flat,” Zahniser said. “The heat kind of got to us and we weren’t in the game. It was our first away game (in a while) so it was a bit of a change.”
Downingtown East started off the contest by outscoring West Chester East 5-2, but once the second period commenced the Vikings started to pilfer some of the momentum that the Cougars had mustered from the start.
West Chester East’s feeling-out process had concluded and they had ratcheted up the intensity, preventing the Cougars from getting the clean looks that had become a standard in the first quarter.
Despite the Vikings’ push, the Cougars did enough to keep West Chester East at bay as they peppered in scores at the most convenient time to halt West Chester East’s momentum and keep their lead comfortable.
Downingtown East’s lead could’ve swelled up even more if it was able to capitalize on a handful of turnovers, but the Cougars’ execution in the second half made their inability to exploit the Vikings in that area insignificant.
“I think we had some mental breakdowns,” West Chester East head coach Jim Schorn said after the loss. “Downingtown East is good enough where they’re going to capitalize if you make a mistake. Against teams like Downingtown and Avon Grove you can’t blink or they’re going to beat you. We blinked and they ran away with it.”
When asked if he was satisfied with his team’s ball security, Schorn had fewer words.
West Chester East looked as if it was going to march into halftime with some promise, but a score by Brian Dignen, who recorded a hat trick on the afternoon, caused that hope to dissipate into the chilly afternoon air.
Once the Cougars slowed down the Vikings’ breakneck speed, they tilted the game in their favor. Downingtown East prefers to be meticulous, and hits its opponent with a calculated attack. The Cougars thrive with space and pace, sending the ball dancing around the turf.
A West Chester East score by Tyler Blum early in the fourth quarter gave the Vikings some life, but the looks of optimism turned into dejection once the Cougars’ Colin Armbaust tallied a goal to make it 10-7.
West Chester East remained in striking distance, but was in dire need of a quick score, and it looked as if the Vikings might connect and make the game’s waning moments intriguing, but Downingtown East freshman goalie Nico Iacovino came up with one of his 12 saves on the afternoon, this one being of the clutch variety.
“I think the pressure helps me. … I thrive in the pressure,” Iacovino said. “My best saves come out when it’s just one-on-one.”
After Dignen connected on this third goal of the game, the Vikings let their goalie run astray and began to fish for any type of offense they could get. They couldn’t manufacture any, as Downingtown East’s activity and attention to detail allowed the Cougars to stonewall the Vikings for a majority of the second half.
“It’s not about the wins and losses, it’s about the guys you win and lose with, and we’ve got a pretty tight group of guys,” Schorn said. “We look at a lot more things than the score of a game.”
As for Downingtown East, it has its sights set on a Ches-Mont League championship.
“We’re looking to win Ches-Monts this year,” said Zahniser. “We’re undefeated in Ches-Monts so far, and we’ve got a big test this weekend against Strath Haven. They’re a really good team. They aren’t Ches-Monts, but they’ll show us what they really are.”
Downingtown East 13, West Chester East 7
Downingtown East 5 2 2 4 – 13
West Chester East 4 1 1 1 – 7
Downingtown East goals: Dignen 3, Lauletta 2, Miller 2, Mulcahy 2, Peden 2, Savidge, Meredith
West Chester goals: Carozza, Grenier, Blum, Lagalante, Delaney, Phelan, Sivo
Goalie saves: Iacovino (DE) 12, Labordoe (WCE) 5.