EAST WHITELAND—When the playoffs roll around, playing tough defense will help a team go a long way. Wednesday afternoon at Great Valley, the Patriots played stifling defense, rarely letting visiting Penncrest cross midfield, let alone make trips inside the circle.
That stout defensive effort, along with converting on three penalty corners, carried No. 6 Great Valley (13-6) to a 3-0 shutout victory over No. 11 Penncrest (11-6-1) in the District 1, Class AA field hockey opener for both teams.
With the win, Great Valley advances to Friday’s quarterfinal round, where they will face No. 14 West Chester East, an upset winner over No. 3 Henderson in overtime Wednesday.
“The past week we’ve worked really hard on our defense,” said Patriots’ coach Maddie Craig. “We know we play nothing but tough teams this time of year. And we have a seasoned defensive unit, with a lot of upper classmen in the back.”
The Patriots controlled the action from the get-go, with numerous trips inside the circle over the first 15 minutes. But despite forcing four penalty corners in that span, couldn’t find the back of the cage.
With 11:53 showing on the clock, the Patriots set up for yet another corner try. Gill Iacobucci put the ball in play on the insert, sending the ball out to Maggie Flynn at the top of the circle. Flynn took a shot, but was rejected by Penncrest goalie Audrey Bassett. Marley Alleva was waiting right on Bassett’s pads, though, and slammed the rebound off the back of the cage for a 1-0 Patriot lead.
“We just finally got our whole team coming together and pushing up,” said Alleva. “We all really wanted it, and once we got it, it just really motivated us and carried us into the second half. It just feels great to get the win and move on. We’ve all worked really hard and are working well as a team right now. We’re looking forward to the next round.”
The Great Valley defense didn’t allow so much as a penalty corner in the first half—and just two in the entire game–and goalie Ryan Curley was not called upon to make a single save in the half.
“This was huge for us to pull out a shutout today,” said Great Valley defender Katie Dinsmore. “The defensive line kept it out of the circle for most of the game, so it was a huge win for the defensive end, as well as the whole team.”
The Patriots added a pair of scores in the second half, both on penalty corners. The first came from Maggie Flynn with a little over 20 minutes remaining, while Iacobucci put the last one in the cage with less than three minutes left.
Penncrest sees its season come to an end with a record of 11-6-1, and an eye to the future.
“Our goal at the start of the season was to finish the regular season with a top 12 finish and a first round bye, and we did that,” said Penncrest coach Caitlin Morgan. “This is two years in a row we made it to districts and we want to keep building on that. We just told our underclassmen to remember this heartbreaking feeling and work to avoid it in the future. We did get to get a lot of younger players in, and they showed a lot late in the game.”
For the Patriots, it’s a match-up with a Ches-Mont foe with a state playoff berth on the line.
“We’re excited to be moving on to the next round,” said Craig. “After today, I feel really good about this team and they way we’re playing. We have a very talented league, and it prepares us well for this time of year.”
Penncrest 0 0 –0
Great Valley 1 2 –3
Goals—Alleva, Flynn, Iacobucci
Goalie Saves: Bassett (PC) 13 Curley (GV) 2