West Goshen >> Under gloomy, rainy skies Thursday afternoon, West Chester East’s defense shone at Harold Zimmerman Stadium to brighten the day with a 1-0 win against visiting Kennett.
“I believe the heart and soul of our team this year has been our defense,” said West Chester East head coach Charlies Dodds. “They don’t usually get their names in the paper, but we’re 7-3 with this win, and our defense has carried us. We like to throw numbers up front, so our backs get tested a lot.”
The Vikings’ victorious defensive quintet includes the back four of senior center back Brendan Merten, junior center back Luke Albergo, junior Luke Lagalante and senior Micheal Usilton, and senior goalie Clint Rehrig.
The victory also was sweet because Kennett (5-2-2) was ranked eight spots higher than West Chester East in the PIAA District 1 Class 4A rankings (the Blue Demons are rated 11th).
“This is a really big win for us,” said Dodds. “Kennett’s a very well-coached team, Mike Barr’s one of the best coaches in the area. What he’s done at Kennett is amazing. He gives so much to that program, and does a great job believing in those kids, and you see Kennett year in and year out, work so hard.”
Thursday’s win came on the heels of a tough 3-2 loss at Great Valley Tuesday, and a 4-0 defeat against Conestoga Sept. 22.
“I think we got back to basics today,” said Dodds. “We’ve been struggling the last couple of games, getting away from the style in which we like to play, we weren’t working as a unit and had too many guys ball-watching. We shared the ball really well today.
“We had a tough game against Great Valley, and [our players] bounced back today. The beauty of high school soccer is that it’s almost like major league baseball; you have a tough day, and a couple of days later, you’re back at it, and our defense really stepped up today.”
In a back-and-forth first half, neither team had anything close to a goal, and the teams were deadlocked 0-0 at halftime. Dodds also gave credit to the Viking midfield for keeping Kennett off the scoreboard.
“Our three central midfielders, Cormac Dooley, Chris Ryan and Owen Van Dyke, controlled the middle of the field, the style of the game, and didn’t let Kennett become dangerous at all,” said Dodds. “When Kennett was looking to counter, they couldn’t break through our midfield. We allowed them to play around with the ball in the back, but when they played that penetrating style, we stepped up and won the ball.”
West Chester East broke the scoring ice in the 50th minute when Dooley’s pinpoint pass to senior midfielder Benjamin Delaney on the right side resulted in Delaney’s 11th goal of the season. The two seniors have been playing together for the past three years, and some non-verbal communication paid off in the score.
Delaney said, “Cormac saw me making a run [toward the goal], he nodded to me, he played it in through, and I finished it. Really, it was all Cormac.”
Dodds said, “Corm put a phenomenal ball right on Ben, and every time you give Ben a sniff around the goal, he’s going to finish it every time.”
The rain, which began in the 30th minute, continued steadily for the rest of the game.
“Our style of play changed a little with the rain, we couldn’t knock it around as much, we had to be a little more direct, making sure [of our passes] because of the weather,” said Delaney. “We didn’t want to make a mistake in the back.”
The rain apparently didn’t affect Dooley’s pass to Delaney for the game’s only score.
“Corm likes the rain, he thinks he’s back in Ireland,” jokingly said Dodds of the senior center mid, who moved to the United States from Ireland three years ago.
“We’re a very technical team; it’s probably the best team I’ve had here in three years at West Chester East,” said Dodds. “The kids like each other and work hard for each other. They hit a rough spot in the last couple of games, but hopefully this win will push us in the right direction. [After the game] I told the team I was proud of them and the way they bounced back and learned from their mistakes [against Great Valley].”
On the Kennett sideline, a disappointed Barr noted, “West Chester East played a very strong game, they were much better than we were today. I’d like to see more intensity from our players [in our next game].”
West Chester East 1, Kennett 0
Kennett 0 0 – 0
W.C. East 0 1 – 1
Goalie saves: Rehrig (WCE) 4.
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