DOWNINGTON — Aliza Trasatti had just helped Downingtown East take its second lead of the first 23 minutes of Tuesday’s District 1 Class 4A playback semifinal. So once play restarted, she figured, why not press her luck? With the ball and some space 40 yards from goal, what’s the worst that could come of it?
“It was kind of just an impulsive shot,” the senior midfielder said. “I had space and I just shot it.”
Trasatti didn’t know that Ella Marrollo would be waiting on the doorstep after her shot pinged off the crossbar and led to a scrum But by the time Marrollo persuaded the ball over the goal line past a scrambling Alison Durfee, the Cougars had all the offense they’d need for a 3-2 win over Haverford, sending the Cougars to states and ending the Fords’ season.
Alyssa Hayes did Trasatti one better by scoring on a dipping drive from distance for the Fords (11-9-2) in the 13th minute, and Annalena O’Reilly grabbed a goal back in the 70th. But the No. 17 Fords finished one shy of a first PIAA tournament berth in program history.
The damage was done in just 21 seconds by the fifth-seeded Cougars (16-5), who advance to host No. 7 Pennsbury in Friday’s fifth-place game. Pennsbury topped No. 6 Abington Tuesday, 4-1. Six teams make states.
Trasatti took the Cougars’ first corner in the 23rd minute. Her back-post delivery spotted the curling run of center back Maren Dougherty, who pounded a downward header with power and pace through the legs of Durfee on the goal line for a 2-1 East lead.
Goal Downingtown East! It’s Maren Dougherty off a corner. 2-1. pic.twitter.com/JrGISq11bM
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) October 30, 2018
That it was Dougherty getting the goal might come as a surprise, given that she’s the speedier member of the center back duo with Emily Buckner rather than the more vertically inclined. But with the bigger bodies massing at the near post, no one tracked Dougherty, who made no mistake on the open header.
“That was a really emotional goal, I guess, because that was just such a good finish by Maren and she was in the perfect spot and she did everything right that she could have,” Trasatti said. “I was just feeling really upbeat and it was a really positive effect for the whole entire team.”
Trasatti let those emotions guide her when she saw Durfee off her line just a fraction and had a go just seconds after Haverford turned over the restart at midfield. The ball hit the underside of the bar, and with Durfee backpedaling, she couldn’t recover fast enough to paw it away from Marrollo, charging hard from the left wing to nudge it over the line for her second marker of the evening.
The goal sent East into halftime with a 3-1 edge that was disproportionate to a fairly even and very entertaining half. The main difference was that East ruthlessly cashed in almost every time they got into the penalty area, while the Fords lacked that final touch.
Hayes provided one from outside the box in the 13th, 10 minutes after Trasatti’s impeccable through ball found Marrollo dashing in all alone in defiance of what the Haverford bench thought was offside. With a goal already on the board, the junior midfielder Hayes opted for an aggressive tack, leaning back and aiming a volley at the back post that clanged off the bottom of the bar and in behind a scrambling Ashley Buchheit.
“I felt like I was going to throw up,” Hayes said. “I thought I missed it and then it went in, and my heart started racing and I started wheezing, and then someone grabbed me. It was amazing. … We were down and everyone had that drive and they wanted to score, and I just saw an opening and I just hit it as hard as I could. I aimed for the top, and that’s where it ended up.”
Despite Haverford having plenty of the ball after the break, East created more concrete chances. Durfee made seven saves, including a sure-handed denial of a rising Meg Buckner shot. Marrollo briefly thought she had completed her hat trick in the 51st, but it was correctly whistled away for an offside.
Haverford finally got to within one in the 70th, with Maya LeBlanc walling off two defenders and inching the ball toward O’Reilly, who toe-poked a volley past an onrushing Buchheit for her 16th goal of the season. Narrowing the deficit to one was the cue for the Cougars to buckle down defensively, and they didn’t allow another clean look on goal, despite several dangerous Haverford free kicks late.
“We realized that there was only, like, 10 minutes left and if we were to let another goal in, we’d be tied and have to go to overtime,” Trasatti said. “So we kind of all just have to stay back and be strong and hold our line and not let them go through.”
That denied Haverford another step in the program’s recent growth. Hayes credited senior leaders like O’Reilly, Durfee and the center back pairing of Britt Riegler and Rebekah Cunningham with keeping the team together when they went down two goals. Those four are among seven senior contributors, and they were part of the program’s first district win as sophomores.
Two years on, they boast a three-year streak of playoff wins and four total victories, including an upset of No. 1 seed Owen J. Roberts this year. To get within a win of states is a massive step forward that Hayes and her fellow underclassmen will shoulder as their expectation next year.
“It definitely gives us a lot to work for,” she said. ‘Knowing that we’ve gotten there before, it definitely gives us the extra motivation to get there next year. With such a senior-heavy team, we’re going to have a rebuilding year next year, but I have confidence we’ll be able to figure it out.”
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