Benintende’s two goals power Unionville to bounce back win

EAST MARLBOROUGH – Quinn Benintende was already on her way to a good night when she broke a scoreless tie early in the second half of Wednesday night’s Ches-Mont League girls soccer clash with Octorara.

Unionville’s senior forward knew it was her night when she scored again just 1:35 later — without even meaning to.

Fortunately for Benintende, intent counts for nothing in soccer. Both goals counted the same on the scoreboard, though, and they were more than enough to lead the Indians to a 2-0 victory over the visiting Braves on Senior Night.

“It was a lot of fun to do that with all of our friends here,’ said Benintende, one of nine Unionville seniors honored before kickoff. “Unexpected, but fun.’

Benintende’s brace was certainly unintentional, if not entirely unexpected; after all, she leads the Indians (7-2, 8-5) with seven goals on the season. After guiding a left-footed shot through traffic and into the lower corner of the net, breaking a goalless stalemate with 33:17 to play, she struck again — this time without even trying.

After settling a bounding ball near the end line, Benintende tried to send a cross into the center of the box.

Tried, of course, being the operative word.

Instead, Benintende’s looping service from the left side arced perfectly over the head of Octorara goalkeeper Brooke Balady and into the upper right corner of the net for what must certainly rank as the most fortuitous goal of her career. The senior striker looked appropriately stunned as the ball found the back of the net.

“That was a total fluke,’ Benintende said. “I was thinking, ‘ what just happened?’

“The first goal was intentional, but the second was obviously supposed to be a cross. I didn’t think it was going in, but when it did, I was kind of counting my blessings.’

To the naked eye, Unionville was facing a classic “trap game’ on Wednesday night.

Hosting an Octorara squad that came in with just two Ches-Mont League victories, the Indians could have been caught looking behind — to two days ago, when they took a lead into the second half against West Chester Rustin with first place in the American Division on the line, only to watch the Golden Knights rally for a 2-1 victory.

Or they could have been caught looking ahead — to their next league contest, a date with National Division front-runner Downingtown East.

The Indians refused to succumb to that narrative despite struggling to connect in the attacking third for much of the contest. The scrappy Braves (2-6 league, 3-7 overall) managed to keep Unionville off the board until the 47th minute before ceding Benintende’s burst early in the second half. Balady finished with six saves between the pipes for Octorara.

“I thought we battled,’ said Octorara head coach Allen Wetzel. “We’re starting to play better in the middle of the field. I thought if we didn’t give up one early in the second half, we could hang and make them feel a bit more pressure, but we gave one up early. Our girls showed good character to battle to the end.’

The Braves nearly pulled one back in the 54th minute, but Macey Wetzel’s booming free kick from about 30 yards out rattled off the crossbar.

“We’ll have to tell her we’re not playing crossbar,’ her coach and father said with a laugh.

Unionville senior goalkeeper Adrianna Weber made three saves to pick up the clean sheet, her seventh of the season. All but one of the Indians’ seven league victories have come via shutout.

With all nine seniors in the starting lineup, Unionville finally broke through for an important victory, ending a two-game skid and washing out the taste of Monday’s disappointing setback at the hands of the Golden Knights.

“We needed a victory,’ Unionville head coach Joe Ratasiewicz said. “Octorara battles. They’re a tough team, and I give them a lot of credit for hanging in there. The Rustin game was a stinger, so we needed something tonight.’

“We definitely needed to boost our spirits,’ Benintende added. “We could have won the Ches-Mont, and we didn’t, so it was definitely frustrating. It just served as motivation to us to go out and play harder and get a good playoff seed.’

The Indians, who find themselves at No. 18 in the latest District 1 Class AAA power rankings, could be on their way to doing just that. But before they can think about the postseason, four games remain on their Ches-Mont slate, including clashes with Downingtown East and West Chester East. Unionville sits four points behind first-place Rustin (8-0-1 league), a 1-0 winner over West Chester East on Wednesday, in the American Division.

“We have some tough games coming up,’ Benintende said. “I feel good about where we’re at, as long as we work together. We have some things we need to improve, and everyone is aware of that. With some work on our communication, we’ll be all set.’

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