BUCKTOWN >> It’s a situation with which the Wildcats have been dealing all season long.
Relaxing after getting out to a solid lead has been a bugaboo for Owen J. Roberts. It occurred again Tuesday evening, though not enough to prevent Owen J. from outlasting Downingtown West, 2-1, in an opening-round District 1-4A playoff game at Wildcat Stadium.
Scoring twice in a four-minute span of the final 15, Roberts appeared to be in good position to take its first post-season outing. But the Whippets made the lead more tenuous by getting a goal inside the three-minute mark, then watching one final shot at the Roberts cage go wide as time expired.
“I don’t think we finished the way we could,” OJR head coach Eric Wentzel said. “The last 5-6 minutes, we unravelled mentally. We didn’t make good decisions.”
The tenacity of both teams kept it a 0-0 game through the first half and 25 minutes of the second. Though it was dominant in first-half shots on goal (10-5) and corner shots (5-1), OJR couldn’t get the ball in the net against a stout West defensive backfield and goalkeeper Ryan Miller.
That ended at the 14:43 mark when Owen J’s Sam Coroniti, assisted by Kyle Storti, converted a straight-on shot. Then at 10:32, Addison Waldman connected on a shot from 30 yards out to put 12th-seeded Roberts (13-6) up 2-0.
“I think they (OJR) deserve credit, the way they dictated the tempo,” Downingtown head coach John Hatt said after seeing his 21st-seeded Whippets finish the year 10-8-1. “Once the game got to that level, we had success. But it was too late.”
West’s increased sense of urgency did its part to make Owen J’s lead less insurmountable. With 2:57 left, Dylan Englehart got the visitors on the board; they then dueled with Roberts before getting the ball down in front of the home goal, where a shot went to the right of the cage by a margin OJR keeper Ryan Walker estimated at between one and two feet.
“That last one was scary,” Walker, who finished the night with seven saves, noted.
“We were totally in control at the end,” Wentzel added. “We should never have had to scramble.”
Another key to Owen J’s defensive play was the alertness of Dom Carroll. Roberts’ senior defensive back, playing in front of the cage, headed away a Downingtown shot Walker deflected.
That helped Roberts maintain its shutout posture up until the end.
“I’ve done that a few times, but not in a district game,” Carroll said. “I knew where the ball and my teammates were. I was confident all the way.”
“We’re very tight,” Walker said of a final line of defense that includes Dante Carroll, Christian Davis and Bennett Houck.
Owen J. Roberts now hits the road Thursday for a second-round game with fifth-seeded Lower Merion. One more win will put it in the playback phase of the district playoffs.
“It’s a matter of surviving and advancing,” Wentzel said.
NOTES >> Roberts finished with a 17-10 edge in shots on goal, and 8-5 in corners. … Miller had a 10-save night in goal for Downingtown, … Hatt, looking back at his team’s performance this fall: “They deserve credit, with two good finishes at the end. We did well … we learned a lot.”
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