Wood’s save fuels Warriors

WEST CHESTER — With time expiring in the first half, James Wood saw Avon Grove’s Jamie Pettus coming toward him in a one-on-one breakaway.

The West Chester Henderson goalie knew his team had a one goal lead and controlled possession throughout the opening half. Giving up a goal in that situation would certainly have changed the whole complexion of the game.

Instead of thinking about the stakes as the play occurred, Wood downplayed the entire scenario.

“I wasn’t really thinking anything, I guess,’ Wood said. “I saw the shot and just reacted to it. After that, I thought about not letting that happening again. We had the lead and just wanted to keep our focus on keeping it.’

Wood saw the blast from Pettus and deflected the ball with his right hand as it went over the crossbar once the half expired, keeping the Warriors’ lead at one goal. His save ended up as the difference-maker as Henderson (2-2 league) defeated Avon Grove (1-2-1, 4-3-1) 3-0 in a Ches-Mont match at J. Oscar Dicks Stadium Tuesday night.

Wood finished with two saves to earn the shutout in net. Despite the senior downplaying the situation that kept the score 1-0 in Henderson’s favor at halftime, head coach Sean Ryan thought a complete 180 on the matter.

“It totally changes what were looking at going into the half,’ Ryan said. “Being able to be up 1-0 versus 1-1 with having a lot of the ball during that half was huge. Going into that half tied would have been a deflater. James came up big for us there.’

The Warriors preserved that momentum from Wood’s save into putting Avon Grove away in the second half.

Henderson controlled possession throughout the final 40 minutes, using an uptempo pace to create opportunities in the box.

In the 43rd minute, Ellis Vague earned a throw-in on the right side of the field. Vague heaved the ball in the box as Richie Schlentz put a header past Avon Grove keeper Will Schulteis to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.

“I needed a line drive and wanted to whip (the ball) in,’ Vague said when describing the throw. “The goalie needed to hesitate and the ball couldn’t be close to him. Richie kind of finished it there and put it in the back of the net.’

Schlentz finished with a goal and an assist on the night. His assist also came via a throw-in in the 63rd minute to Zach Roberts to make it 3-0.

After a first half that saw Henderson escape with the lead despite dominating possession, Schlentz figured the Warriors needed to continue the same run-and-gun attack in the second half to earn the home victory.

That strategy worked.

“We just wanted to keep our composure in the second half,’ Schlentz said. “Just play the way we can play.’

Avon Grove controlled possession for the first 20 minutes until Wood deflected a shot in the 20th minute to keep the game scoreless.

From that save on, it was all Henderson.

Aiden McFadden got the Warriors on the board with a goal in the 26th minute. His second of the season gave Henderson a 1-0 lead, which it would not relinguish.

“We failed to capitalize early with possession,’ said Avon Grove head coach Dave Whitcraft. “(Henderson) plays 80 minutes solid and strong. We had a couple letdowns and they took advantage of it. They’re a good strong squad.’

The victory was the third straight win for Henderson as the Warriors are playing their best soccer with the grind of their schedule approaching.

“Our fitness level is higher than most teams we play,’ Ryan said. “As a result, they’re able to stay at a higher level for longer and to be able to impose how we’re trying to play the game. We played 21 different guys tonight. Having depth will be important and that’s going to be important and the high school season becomes quite a grind. To keep fresh bodies and still play at a high level will be really important for us.’

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