Tredyffrin >> Top seed Conestoga found Perkiomen Valley’s tough defense a hard nut to crack in the PIAA 4A District One boys’ soccer quarterfinals at Teamer Field Saturday afternoon, but Pioneer senior forward Chris Donovan came up with the solution, scoring twice in a 2-1 overtime win.
With the victory, Conestoga (19-0-1), the defending PIAA 4A state champions, advance to the district semifinals and wrap up a berth in the PIAA state tourney. The Pioneers will face No. 13 seed Kennett in the semifinals Wednesday, as the Blue Demons defeated fifth-seeded West Chester Henderson, 2-1, Saturday.
Donovan has a knack for scoring, particularly in the clutch. Last fall, he scored the game-winning goal for the Pioneers in their 1-0 victory in the PIAA Class 4A state championship finals. A unanimous selection as first team All-Central League last fall, he led the PIAA state champions in scoring with 15 goals and seven assists.
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“Chris is the ultimate competitor and has great composure inside the box,” said Conestoga head coach Zimmerman. “He is very calm under pressure and that’s part of what makes him such a dangerous finisher.”
Donovan scored twice Saturday despite being man-marked and going against a Perkiomen Valley squad (15-7) that had yielded only 16 goals coming into the contest. The Vikings’ defense put them on a post-season roll, playing in the district quarterfinal for the first time.
“Going toe-to-toe with Conestoga was not going to win this game,” said Perkiomen Valley head coach Bob McCabe. “We needed to clog space in the middle and play strong defense. We played with no forward today, recessed our forward to midfield, and man-marked Chris Donovan to limit his opportunities.”
Donovan, a Drexel University commit, scored the game’s first goal just 12:09 into the contest. He took a nice feed from senior midfielder Nick Jennings, found an opening and headed the ball into the net, while getting hit in the chest from a Perkiomen Valley defender. It took a while for Donovan to get up off the ground.
“I had the wind knocked out of me,” said Donovan. “I saw the ball going in, but I didn’t see it hit the back of the net.”
While the Pioneers spent much of the game in Perkiomen Valley territory, Conestoga did not score another goal for the remainder of regulation play.
“It’s always good for our team to have [learning] experiences during the regular season, but we hadn’t played a team this season that played that kind of defense,” said Zimmerman.
Meanwhile, Perkiomen standout senior midfielder Michael Weir (a nationally-ranked rugby player) cashed in on a penalty kick with 8:55 to go before halftime to tie the score at 1-1.
The last 10 minutes of regulation play featured repeated Pioneer runs at the goal, but each time, the hosts came up empty. Perkiomen senior goalie Andrew Daubenspeck made several key saves down the stretch.
In overtime, the Pioneers continued to attack deep in Perkiomen territory, and finally broke through six minutes into overtime, as Donovan scored on a connection from senior midfielder Rodrigo Martinez to junior forward Alyan Youssaf to Donovan.
“I knew I wanted to shoot it when I got the ball,” said Donovan. “No defender closed me down, and I saw an opening to the right of the goalie.
“My first reaction when I saw the ball go in? Excitement.”
Zimmerman praised Martinez, who hit several shots at the goal that almost went in during regulation.
“Rodrigo gave a good effort today, had good energy for us,” said Zimmerman. “He’s a dynamic player.”
For Perkiomen Valley, the season is not over, as they move into the playback bracket.
McCabe said, “I couldn’t be more proud of our team today. We’ve had a super post-season run. I’ll bet no one gave us a chance of staying with Conestoga. Even though the loss hurts, I think our players deep down feel a little sense of accomplishment about today’s game.”
Conestoga 2, Perkiomen Valley 1
Perkiomen Valley 1 0 0 – 1
Conestoga 1 0 1 – 2
Perkiomen Valley goal: Weir.
Conestoga goals: Donovan 2.
Goalie saves: Daubenspeck (PV) 6, Smith (CO) 3.