For much of this decade, Chester County has been about as good as it gets when it comes to field hockey. County teams have won the last six straight District 1 championships in Class AAA, while Villa Maria has dominated the scene in class AA. Last season, over half the state qualifiers from District 1 called Chester County home.
The 2017 District 1 championship tournaments get underway on Monday, October 23, and once again, the county has strong representation, with the top seeds in both Class AAA and AA, and 12 qualifiers over all.
Leading the way in Class AAA is Downingtown West, the No. 1 seed. The unbeaten Whippets (18-0) cruised to a Ches-Mont national title, its second straight, and did so in dominant fashion. West has averaged 6.81 goals per game, while allowing a paltry 0.56 against.
Junior forward Claudia Jaszczak, with 26 goals and 7 assists, is the Whippets’ leading scorer, with significant help coming from sophomore forward Tatum Johnson (22 goals and 2 assists) and senior midfielder and North Carolina recruit Romea Riccardo (17 goals and 6 assists)
Caitlyn Coker has been a brick wall in the cage, allowing just 12 goals in 18 games, while posting 10 shutouts.
The Whippets finished fourth in District 1 after dropping a heartbreaking overtime game to eventual champ Conestoga in semi-finals, and won its first round state game, and hope to improve on both this season.
“We are very excited for our next chapter,” said West coach Liz Bradley. “Our regular season journey has prepared us for post-season play and our focus moving forward is one game at a time.”
The Whippets earned a first-round bye, and their tourney begins on Wednesday, October 25 when they face –off against the winner of No. 16 Council Rock South and No. 17 Lower Merion.
Defending Class AAA champ Conestoga (15-3) locks down the No. 3 seed this year as it begins a title defense. The Pioneers are the Central league champions once again, and have averaged 5.6 goals per game.
Junior Char DeVries, the reigning Daily Local News Player of the Year, has put together another great season, and paces the Pioneer offense with 37 goals on the year, and a team-high 76 points. Senior Kiley Allen contributes with 16 assists on the season.
The Pioneers also get a first round bye and will player the winner of No. 14 Downingtown East (11-7) and No. 19 Garnet Valley. The Cougars will host the Jaguars at 4PM Monday.
Ches-Mont American champ Unionville, who finished the season with a record of 13-5, is the No. 9 seed. This Indians will play host to No. 24 Boyertown in Monday’s first round. A win here and the Indians will see No. 8 Pennsbury.
The final county entry in the Class AAA tournament is Avon Grove. The Red Devils (9-9) are the No. 20 seed, and will travel to No. 13 Neshaminy. A victory earns Avon grove a date with No. 4 Haverford.
The top six finishers in Class AAA will advance to the PIAA tournament.
Over in Class AA, Villa Maria is the top seed after running through its AACA slate without a loss, and a 16-1 record overall, with the only loss coming in the season’s first game against Downingtown West.
The Hurricanes have been a well-balanced scoring machine, putting up 7.80 goals per game, while allowing just 0.80.
Led by senior forward Emily Doyle (28 goals, 8 assists) and junior forward Hannah Miller (29 goals, 16 assists), the Hurricanes are getting contributions from across the board. Midfielders Lindsay Dickinson (9 goals, 17 assists) and Adele Iacobucci (11 goals, 11 assists) have been instrumentals in keeping the flow of the Hurricane attack, while players like junior Liz D’Ascenzo, senior Ryan Doran, senior Brianna Deitz, along with a few young players like sophomore Yacovelli and sophomore Powers in the mix helps develop the team.
Backs Mary Harkins and Erin Zielinski have provided the first line of defense in front of goalie Danielle Acuna,
“With each game, we just try to improve, and get better as a team,” said Villa coach Daan Polders. “Postseason is something we always look forward to as a challenge and as a reward after the regular season. Now the team has to prove herself every game; no ‘do-overs’. Villa is, like each year, ambitious and hungry for more as the number 1 seed in District 1.”
The Hurricanes, state champions in 2014, a state finalist in 2015, and a state semi-finalist a year ago, always have high expectations for the post season. This year, that run begins Wednesday against the winner of No. 16 Springfield (Delco) and No. 17 Pope John Paul II.
West Chester Henderson (14-3) pull down the No. 3 seed in Class AA. The Warriors finished the regular season as the runners-up in the Ches-Mont National.
Senior Lexie Dunleavy plays left side attack and paces the Warriors with 20 goals and 9 assists. Peighton Bement, a senior midfielder, added 9 goals and an assist, while freshman forward Gianna Cugino added 6 goals and 5 assists for Henderson.
Handling duties in the cage for Henderson is Emily Franco, who boasts an 88.18 save percentage, and is credited with 12 shutouts in Henderson’s 14 wins. Ming Doherty has been an invaluable asset as a defender—consistent, smart, and with great skills.
“We need to continue to play together for 60 minutes, with intensity, focus and strength,” said Henderson coach Jen O’Donnell. “And we need to pull the wagon in one direction”
Henderson gets a first round bye, then will see the winner of No.14 West Chester East and No. 19 Upper Moreland.
Great Valley (12-6), the No. 6 seed, and Rustin (10-7-1), the No. 7 seed, also have first round byes. The Patriots will open at home with No. 11 Penncrest, while Rustin will host No. 10 Phoenixville.
Bishop Shanahan (9-8-1) is the No. 13 seed, and will play host to No. 20 Marple-Newtown.
Rounding out the county qualifiers in Class AA are No. 15 Kennett (6-11-1) and No. 18 Octorara (6-11-1). The Braves will make the trip south to square off against the Blue Demons in round one on Monday.
The top five finishers in Class AA will move on to the PIAA tournament.