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Donovan’s hat trick spells victory for Conestoga in district semifinal

Tredyffrin >> Just four days after scoring both of Conestoga’s goals in a District One quarterfinal win in overtime, Pioneer senior forward Chris Donovan continued his scoring binge, tallying a hat trick in a 3-0 district semifinal victory against Kennett Wednesday evening at Teamer Field.

The win advances the top-seeded Pioneers (20-0-1) into the PIAA 4A District One championship game against No. 19 seed Council Rock North Saturday at 7 p.m. at Great Valley High School. CR North defeated Central Bucks West in a penalty kick shootout Wednesday to advance to the finals.

Donovan, who scored the game-winning goal for the Pioneers in their 1-0 victory in the PIAA Class 4A state championship final last fall in Hershey, has scored all five of Conestoga’s goals in its last two games.

“Chris is the ultimate competitor and has great composure inside the box,” said Conestoga head coach David Zimmerman of the Drexel University commit. “He is very calm under pressure and that’s part of what makes him such a dangerous finisher.”

PETE BANNAN-DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Conestoga’s (12) Chris Donovan celebrates his third goal with teammate (13) Jake Silverstein, left and (17) Julian Niggeman in the second half in District semi-finals at Teamer Field Wednesday evening.

Against a defensive-oriented Perkiomen Valley squad in the quarterfinals, Donovan was man-marked and still scored two goals in a bruising 2-1 defensive battle. Wednesday night’s game against Kennett (16-6) was a more wide-open contest, and that was what Zimmerman was anticipating from the Blue Demons, who had knocked off No. 4 Hatboro-Horsham and No. 5 Henderson on the road by identical 2-1 scores..

“Kennett is the best offensive team we’ve faced this year,” said Zimmerman minutes before Wednesday’s contest. “Their front four are very talented and extremely dangerous, particularly No. 13 [senior forward Nicholas Brison]. I think the key tonight for us will be to score first.”

Which is what happened, as Donovan broke the scoring ice at 9:59 into the game with a header after a feed from junior defender Jack Murphy.

“I saw a buildup on the left side, and after Jack Murphy fed it in, I saw the keeper coming out,” said Donovan. “I won [the ball] and put it on target.”

For the next 50 minutes, neither team scored, but it was not for lack of shot opportunities for both squads.

“In the midfield I think there were stretches where we were getting out-played and pinned on our end, and [Kennett’s] counter game was really dangerous,” said Zimmerman. “They had a couple of breakaways, and we were very fortunate – our keeper, Luke Smith, made some big saves for us tonight.

“Also I think our back line played very well – [senior] Mike McCarthy and Logan Schwartz, our two center backs, played great. I don’t think Kennett has been shut out too much this year – it’s not an easy thing to accomplish against them.”

Donovan gave the hosts some breathing room with 20:55 left when he broke free behind the Kennett defense, and received a lofted pass from sophomore midfielder Nate Xu.

“Nate played me over the top, and from there I just volleyed it to the left side of the goal,” said Donovan.

Eight minutes later, Donovan had his hat trick, with an assist from senior midfielder Nick Jennings.

“Nick took the free kick, I made my run in behind, and I just tried to head it on target,” said Donovan. “The [third] goal is the one I remember the most – there aren’t too many playoff hat tricks.”

Conestoga 3, Kennett 0
Kennett     0 0 – 0
Conestoga 1 2 – 3
Conestoga goals: Donovan 3.
Goalie saves: Almanza Romero (KE) 5, Smith (CO) 4.

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