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Conestoga boys’ soccer team captures first district title since 2011

East Whiteland >> Minutes after capturing the PIAA 4A District 1 title Saturday evening with a 2-0 win against Council Rock North, the Conestoga boys’ soccer team savored its feeling of redemption.

“My first reaction when the game ended was a great sense of relief,” said Conestoga head coach David Zimmerman, whose Pioneers finished runner-up in the district tournament the past two years, including last year’s PIAA state title team.

Conestoga goalie Luke Smith said, “My first thought when the game ended was, ‘Finally.’ Winning this means everything to me – I feel great not only for me but for the entire team and school. This feels like the state final game last year [a 1-0 win against Elizabethtown].”

 

The Pioneers’ district boys’ soccer title, the first one since 2011, is only the second one in Conestoga boys’ soccer history. Interestingly, the 2011 district title game ended in a Pioneer victory against Council Rock North.
Saturday evening at Great Valley High School, the No. 1 seed Pioneers (21-0-1) got both of their goals from senior Chris Donovan, who has scored all seven of Conestoga’s goals in the past three games.
With 21:52 left in the first half Saturday, Donovan broke the scoring ice with an assist from junior midfielder Julian Niggeman.
“I saw space in front of the center back, I gave the ball to Julian, and he gave it back to me,” said Donovan.
Just 12 minutes later, Donovan dribbled the ball downfield before firing in his second goal of the night.
“[Conestoga junior forward] Matt Rossi pressured their defender, and the ball came into my path,” said Donovan, whose goal gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.

 

“Winning this [district] title was a major goal for us this season,” said Donovan. “Winning it here [at Great Valley] means a lot too – we’ve had our ups and downs on this field.”
Last fall, Conestoga lost the district championship game at Great Valley High School; and earlier this season, the Pioneers battled Haverford School to a tie on the Great Valley field.
Saturday, once the Pioneers had a 2-0 lead on No. 19 seed Council Rock North (15-7-1), they kept it the rest of the way, thanks in part to a stingy defense that has allowed a total of only one goal in the Pioneers’ four district tournament games.
Smith said, “Our back five has really played as a unit. With guys like Andrew Castleman, Jason Ivey, Logan Schwartz, Jack Murphy and Mike McCarthy in the back line, I don’t get many chances [at saves]. And our team played with true grit and determination tonight, winning the 50-50 balls.”
Two other players Zimmerman praised were senior midfielder Jeff Charles and junior left wing Jake Silverstein.
“Jeff was a dominant force today, winning balls and playing tough,” said Zimmerman. “And ‘Jake the Snake’ played with great energy tonight, made some nice passes.”
Conestoga now moves on to the PIAA 4A state tournament, and its first round game will be against the third-place finisher from District 3, Ephrata (18-4).

Conestoga 2, Council Rock North 0
Council Rock North 0 0 – 0
Conestoga 2 0 – 2
Conestoga goals: Donovan 2.
Goalie saves: Mancinelli (CRN)) 5, Smith (CO) 3.

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