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West Chester Henderson edges Unionville to draw first blood in wide-open Ches-Mont

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WEST CHESTER >> The importance of the early season boys’ soccer battle was obvious, and the rainy conditions added a little more uncertainty to the proceedings. But in the end, the only real difference between West Chester Henderson and Unionville was a single goal that came in the latter minutes of play.

The host Warriors ended nearly 70 minutes of scoreless action at J. Oscar Dicks Stadium when junior forward Kevin Kiefer got a foot on a free kick and misdirected it past Indians’ keeper Alex Dolce. Henderson then survived unscathed the rest of the way to avoid falling to .500 in the very competitive Ches-Mont race.

“This year in the Ches Mont, I don’t think there is a runaway team,” said Henderson head coach Sean Ryan. “Almost anyone can beat anyone on a given day. So if you start piling up losses, the chances of winning the league become slimmer. It’s not rocket science.

“This was a big opponent that was above us in the current power rankings for the districts, so to beat a good team that is going to go on to have a great season was important for us as we think about the postseason.”

Now 3-1 (6-2 overall), the Warriors were able to distance themselves from last week’s loss at Bishop Shanahan. For Unionville (1-2, 4-3), who’s dropped three matches in five days, staying in the league race is now going to be even more challenging. The Indians fell to red-hot West Chester East 2-0 last Thursday.

“We just have to keep our heads up and keep getting better. It was a much better performance (Monday). We were a little unlucky in the first half and in the second, we just seemed to be chasing the game – I don’t know why. They just came at us and we panicked a little bit.”

It was obvious from the start that this was a matchup between two well-schooled defenses. And the wet conditions made for the mishandling of a few slippery soccer balls by each team’s goaltenders.

“It definitely changes the game,” Ryan pointed out. “With a slick field, the ball bounces differently and it makes for nervous moments at times when a hard skipping ball is going to a player in space or your keeper has to come out in a bang-bang moment.

“It was a tough night with the weather, but I thought both teams handled it well.”

The rain started falling in earnest midway through the first half. And even though the Warriors had as many shots on goal, the Indians had most of the prime scoring chances, including a sequence in the final minute of the half.

It started with a free kick by Garrett Pinkston near midfield that was headed in the box by teammate Chris Ehlers and had to be punched over the crossbar by Henderson keeper John Jungjurth.

“We just haven’t had a whole lot of luck lately,” Garber said. “I told the kids that hopefully luck will be on our side soon.”

In the second half, the Warriors started to string together scoring chance and were finally rewarded with Kiefer’s goal.

“It was a great service by Nick Dinacci into a dangerous spot and Kevin ended up getting his foot on it, changed the plane a bit to throw their goalkeeper off,” Ryan explained.

“With the weather with the way it was, and we know (Unionville) has some experienced players over there, we had a feeling it would be tight. I’m just happy we were eventually able to get the goal on the restart and get out of here with a win.

“We felt like we had a bit more of the chances and we felt like there was a goal in this game somewhere.”

Kiefer had just reentered the game moments earlier, and took advantage of some coaching from the home team sideline.

“My coach yelled in: ‘Kief, where do you want to be right now?’” Kiefer recalled. “So I moved closer to the near post area, got my foot on it and deflected it in. If I didn’t do that, I wasn’t scoring there.”

Defender Chris Roberts added: “Kevin’s been coming up big for us all season.”

Afterwards, Roberts admitted that the team talked about the fact that Unionville entered the clash in seventh in the District 1 4A power rankings, ahead of Henderson by nine spots. Now the Warriors are 12th and the Indians 13th.

“(Unionville) went in ranked ahead of us in the districts so it was important we came away with a win,” he said. “Plus, it’s good to see us bounce back in the Ches-Mont.

“The ball got really slippery, so it was important we kept it safe back there. Keeping a zero on the board is the most important thing at the end of the day because (the opponent) can’t win if they don’t score.”

With two setbacks, the Indians could already be out of the Ches-Mont race. But it is very early.

“We can’t have any more hiccups if we want to win the league,” Garber said. “I haven’t seen any team yet that is that much head and shoulders above the upper tier of the league.”

Unionville     0 0 — 0

W.C. Henderson     0 1 — 1

Unionville goals: none.

W.C. Henderson goal: Keefer.

Goalie saves: Dolce (U) 6; Jungkurth (H) 3.

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