First-half goal the decider for Downingtown East against West

DOWNINGTOWN — One of the tough things in sports is that no matter how well you play, no matter how many statistical categories where you might hold an edge, it all means nothing if you don’t have more points on the scoreboard than your opponent does.

Thursday afternoon at Kottmeyer Stadium against arch-rival Downingtown East, the Downingtown West field hockey team held a 16-3 advantage in shots on goal, and forced nine penalty corners to zero for the Cougars. But the Cougars got a first-half goal from Isuru Amarasekera and then played stifling defense inside the circle to take a 1-0 victory in a key Ches-Mont League National Division matchup.

“This one is kind of tough to stomach,’ said West coach Liz Morrow. “I really think we played the better game today. But I told the girls to keep their heads up. Everyone could see that we dominated much of the game. We just needed to take advantage of a few opportunities.’

The East goal came with 9:29 to play in the first half. Jackie Meluskey took the ball on a free hit from the broken circle, sending it in towards the cage, where Elizabeth Farrell fired it at West goalie Liz D’Ginto, who turned away the initial shot, but Amarasekera grabbed the rebound and slipped it in for the score.

“I really thought we would score more than we did,’ said Amarasekera. “But it really feels great to have scored the game-winning goal. It’s always fun to get a win over our rival school.’

After a four-goal outburst against Avon Grove on Tuesday, the Cougars felt like they were firing on all cylinders offensively. But the Whippets defense held East in check.

“I don’t think we came out and played our game,’ said East coach Stephanie Bullock. “Unfortunately, I think the pace and style of play — for both teams — was dictated by the officials somewhat. And there’s always going to be nerves — it’s a simple East-West thing. It was just a really well-fought battle between two good teams.’

East goalie Laura Narcum wound up with nine saves on the day, including several where she went horizontal to make, while Kaitlyn Kalady was credited with a defensive save for the Cougars.

“It was definitely intense out there, especially in the second half,’ said Marcum. “I’m still just blown away that we won. They are a very good team, and so are we. It was great competition, and it’s always fun to beat your rivals.’

Narcum was quick to credit her teammates for their assistance in the shutout.

“Emily (Venzia), Kaitie (Kaladay) and Hayley Gobson were always right there with me,’ said Marcum. “I love them to death, and they were just great today.’

The defenders have put in the work, and it is starting to pay dividends as East improves to 5-0 on the season.

“All the girls have been really stepping it up at practice,’ said Bullock. “And Laura especially. She’s been working a lot with coach Williams, our goalie coach. This is her second year with us, and she’s been a great addition for us.’

West falls to 2-3 on the season, with two of the three losses in overtime against perennial powerhouses Villa Maria and North Penn. The Whippets have certainly been battle tested in the early going, and there’s plenty of hockey still to be played.

“Again, we just have to keep our heads up and keeping coming out playing our game,’ said Morrow. “Just stay focused and keep working hard.’

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