LIONVILLE—Garnet Valley hadn’t made the District 1 field hockey playoffs since 2013. After posting its first winning season in just as long under-first year head coach Sandy Leiti, the Jaguars finally made it back, pulling down the No. 19 seed in Class AAA.
Standing in the way of advancement in the tourney, though, was Downingtown East, a District tourney regular, and the No. 14 seed. The Cougars proved to be too much for the upstart Jags, and Downingtown East (12-7-0) punched their ticket to round two with a convincing 6-0 victory over Garnet Valley (8-8-3).
“Coming into this season, we wanted to have a winning season and make it to districts, and we accomplished those goals,” said Leiti. “It was a lot of hard work this season to get here, and we’re taking steps in the right direction. This team only won six games last season, and fewer the year before that. To improve to get eight wins and three ties, and for the girls to start believing in themselves and gain confidence is what is going to start changing the culture of field hockey at Garnet.”
Ten minutes ran off the clock at the start of the game with both offensive attacks sputtering. Neither team even got so much as a penalty corner for the first eight minutes, but then traded unsuccessful corners over the next five minutes.
“For whatever reason, we started kind of slow,” said the Cougars’ Caroline Webb. “We all knew someone was going to have to make something happen.”
That person was Webb herself. The Cougar captain ran a ball along the top of the circle, and seeing an opening, fired off a rocket of a shot. It banged off the back of the cage, and the Cougars were up 1-0.
“Coach (Megan Kahanowitz) called a time out and we just re-grouped as a team,” said Webb. “All our coaches work so hard for us to be here, we all really want to get it done for them. We all just knew we needed that first goal. But even though you always want to score first, you’re still pretty stressed when you’re only up 1-0. You can be back to tied in a hurry.”
It didn’t take long for the Cougars to get a little breathing room. A little over two minutes later, Paige Wolfe brought a ball up the end line, and slipped a beautiful pass through a crowd to Sienna Ubanski, waiting near Garnet goalie Holly Crothers’ pads. Ubanski quickly settled the pass, and blasted one home past both Crothers and another Jags’ defender.
“Paige dribbled through so many defenders to get in position to make that pass, I just wanted to make sure I was in position for her to get it to me,” said Urbanski. “We have so many different girls on this team that can get things done—it’s one of our strengths. We even had a defender score on a corner today.”
East saw five different players score the six goals. In addition to Webb, Urbanski had two, Wolfe had one, and Kya and Anna Effinger each scored as well.
On the other end of the field, the Cougars pitched a shutout. With her teammates limiting Garnet’s trips inside the circle—the Jags forced just two corners on the afternoon—Cougars’ goalie Ava Irwin’s job was almost easy, and she needed only turn away two shots to preserve the shutout.
“Playing that kind of defense is crucial,” said Kahanowitz. “The last six games we’ve just gotten better and better at playing as a unit. We’re communicating better and really starting to play as a team.”
Up next for the Cougars is Conestoga. The Pioneers are the defending District 1, Class AAA champs, and are the No. 3 seed after posting a regular season record of 15-3.
“We kind of like going in as the underdogs,” said Kahanowitz. “I told our girls that Wednesday is going to be a mental game as much as anything else. As good as Conestoga is, they’re beatable. It’s just going to be a matter of who shows up ready to play.”
Garnet Valley 0 0 –0
Downingtown East 3 3 –6
Goals: Urbanski (2), Webb, Wolfe, K Effinger, A Effinger
Goalie Saves: Crothers (GV) 10, Irwin (DE) 2