Rustin battles out win over Henderson

West Chester — The West Chester Rustin boys soccer team needed to make a statement against crosstown rival West Chester Henderson on Thursday night.

Not only did they secure the Ches-Mont League 2-1 win, but did it even with a waived-off goal which could have deflated the Golden Knights.

“I told the boys this was a game that we could really make a statement across the district that some of the games we lost close didn’t mean anything and that we are for real,’ said Rustin head coach Ryan Castle. “Henderson’s a good team. They’re young, but they have a good core and I told my upperclassmen this is the game we make the statement going into districts, what our season is going to look like.’

The statement was made early by the visiting team when, in just the third minute of the game, Rustin (8-3, 12-4) clanked a shot off the crossbar.

From that point on, they never slowed down.

In the 24th minute, Rustin had a throw-in, which took a deflection before senior Ryan Fincher was able to head it in for a goal.

“I’m glad I got it early,’ Fincher said. “I know the goalkeeper very well. He plays for my club team. It was great just seeing it go off him and into the back of the net. Instincts just put me where I was. It was a weird deflection and I got the head on it. It was awesome.’

Henderson (8-3, 12-4) attempted to answer back five minutes later, but found the post.

Before the half came to an end, Rustin thought they extended their lead, but it was immediately waved off, leaving players and fans in the crowd stunned.

“They told me that one of my guys, who went to shoot the ball, had fouled (a Henderson player), even though he went to shoot the ball,’ Castle said. “And even though he got the ball, because it went sideways, he tried to tell me that he took him out from behind.’

It could have been a deflating moment for Rustin, but instead of harboring the negative, Fincher made sure to keep his team going.

“With the ref, we can’t call the game back,’ he said. “If he makes the call, he makes the call. We’re not going to argue with him. We’re not going to get that goal back. There’s no way that’s going to happen. We just have to stay positive and I have to encourage the guys. I have to keep it up-tempo.’

Whatever he did, it worked.

Despite Henderson coming out with more intensity in the second half, Rustin was able to keep pace.

“I told them at halftime the next goal is going to dictate if it was going to be us or them,’ Castle said. “If it’s going to be us, we’re going to have success. We expected that they would come at us.’

The next goal truly did decide the fate of the game and it went in favor of the Golden Knights.

Junior Brendan Garcia was able to break through two defenders for a one-on-one with goalkeeper James Wood and this time, there would be no denying the goal.

“That was huge for us to get that goal,’ Castle said. “It was a great combination between Brett (Sherman) and Garcia. It was just a great goal. They played great. I just can’t say it more.’

The biggest concern in the game came in the final eight minutes of the game with Henderson pressing more.

On a free kick from junior Ben Martin, the ball hit the crossbar, but senior Ellis Vague pounced on the rebound to get Henderson on the board and pull within one with plenty of time left to tie things up.

“The effort hasn’t been lacking, it has been in the big-time games, can we close it out and stay composed?’ Castle said. “I had complete confidence in my guys. You could feel that swagger that they were going to close it out.’

And they did just that as Rustin ate up the minutes on the field to hold onto the win.

“They just battled their faces off,’ Castle said. “We didn’t have our captain, our center midfielder, being sick and our other captain, one of our better players, is hurt the whole game. For him to grit it out was huge.’

Even with the loss, Henderson remains four points up on West Chester East after a loss of its own.

With the win, Rustin keeps pace with Great Valley, staying one point behind them with the regular season quickly winding down.

“We’ve had good wins and we’ve had some bad losses,’ Fincher said. “This was definitely a game that helped us with the rankings and our confidence going into the last two games.’


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