Lewis’ two goals send W.C. East to second round of districts

WEST GOSHEN – If someone had told the West Chester East field hockey team that star forward Lindsay Pratt would not score in Monday evening’s District 1 Class AAA first-round battle with Hatboro-Horsham, one would assume the Vikings wouldn’t much like their chances.

After all, Pratt finished the regular season with 23 goals, good for second in the Ches-Mont League and 17 more than the next closest Viking. So, Maddy Lewis, without a goal from Pratt, what do you think of your chances?

“I still think they would be really good because we play really well as a team,’ said the East senior. “We can’t just rely on her to score. Obviously she’s a very important player, but our entire team is capable of putting the ball in the net.’

East proved it’s much more than a one-woman show on a chilly night at Zimmerman Stadium. Lewis scored twice and Margot Mercer cleaned up a rebound in the waning seconds, sealing a 3-1 victory over the No. 22 Hatters and sending the No. 11 Vikings on to the second round for the second consecutive year. East will travel to No. 6 Council Rock North on Wednesday afternoon.

“It doesn’t matter how you played in the regular season; anyone can step up,’ said Lewis, who scored the game’s first two goals. “It’s anyone’s game.’

This one belonged to the Vikings (14-5), thanks to an impressive all-around team performance with a laundry list of heroes. Pratt made her mark, forcing several saves from Hatters goalie Emily Braunewell (eight saves) and making some dangerous runs, but her supporting cast was the story.

At the forefront was Lewis, who netted her seventh and eighth goals of the season. She opened the scoring in the 17th minute, receiving a pass from Lauren Zimmerman off a penalty corner and sending a powerful blast through a crowd and into the back of the cage for a 1-0 lead.

The slim advantage stayed that way until halftime, but it didn’t last much past then. Lewis struck again just 56 seconds after intermission, ripping a shot from the just inside the circle to make it 2-0.

“It feels great,’ Lewis said of her two-goal effort. “It wasn’t just me, though. I had my whole team behind me, the whole time.’

The upset-minded Hatters, who reached the semifinals as a No. 14 seed a year ago and upset the No. 13 seed in the 2012 first round, bounced back right away as Casey Swezey scored off a penalty corner just 1:21 after Lewis’ tally to cut the East lead to 2-1.

Hatboro-Horsham had several chances to equalize, including a stretch of four consecutive corners spanning the 10-minute mark, but the Vikings defense rose up each time.

Led by Lauren Fredricks and Stephanie Batog, East blocked a litany of shots and kept the area in front of goalie Meryl Walker (two saves) clean most of the night. Fredricks and Batog each made several critical defensive plays in the second half, stripping onrushing Hatters to snuff out transition opportunities.

“They definitely had some great step-ups,’ East coach Courtney Wolff said. “It’s key to have those people that you know are going to be able to step up in crucial moments.

“I know they know how to take care of defensive corners,’ Wolff continued. “They trust each other, and we’re strong back there. We know how to get it out. Not panicking is the key.’

The Vikings clung to their one-goal margin with clenched hands until Mercer put it away, depositing a rebound for her fourth goal of the season with 34.8 seconds to play, the exclamation point on a high-quality, tightly-played affair.

“Both teams played so well,’ Hatters coach Laura Swezey said. “I don’t think either team had a lull tonight. It was a fast-paced, skilled game. I was very proud of our team for fighting to every ball. I’m disappointed just because we’re not going to be together, but they played wonderfully tonight.’

Now the Vikings will look to break their recent glass ceiling. East is making its third straight district playoff appearance, but has yet to make it past the second round.

With the sixth-seeded Indians looming, Lewis and company know they have a tall task in front of them. With everyone contributing, it seems that much more manageable.

“We haven’t been past the second round before, so this is the year we’re looking to get past that point,’ Lewis said. “We’re ready.’

“There’s some pressure to get to the next level and compete at a higher level than last year,’ Wolff added. “We have the right girls out on the field. We just have to be ready to play the best game we’ve ever played.’

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