D-East survives Shanahan second-half rally for huge Ches-Mont win

DOWNINGTOWN — Sarah Kollhoff figured Downingtown East’s Ches-Mont League showdown with Bishop Shanahan would come down to the final minute.

However, the script was not the way Kollhoff would have wrote the first draft.

The Cougars saw a huge second-half lead evaporate to just one goal with 37.7 seconds left. With East struggling to get possession, Kollhoff was determined to seize the incoming draw control and seal the victory.

The stakes were too high for Downingtown East to fall flat and collapse.

“If they (Shanahan) got the ball, it would have been a tie game,’ Kollhoff said. It would have made everything that much harder for the team. I was driven to get that ball. I knew I had to get that for the team.’

On the draw control, Kollhoff leaped with her stick and beat two Shanahan players for the ball. With possession, Kollhoff passed the ball upfield as Downingtown East ran off the clock and held on to a 7-6 victory over Bishop Shanahan in a Ches-Mont game that lived up to the hype.

The Cougars (6-1 league, 8-2 overall) move into sole possession of third place in the Ches-Mont with the win. They remain a game in the loss column behind Great Valley and Unionville for the league lead.

The Eagles (6-3 league, 9-3 overall) had their season-high nine game winning streak snapped and are out of contention for the league title.

Shanahan found itself trailing throughout the afternoon; never having the lead. Once Kollhoff scored her second goal of the game to put East up 7-1, head coach Laura Capuano called a timeout to inject life into the Eagles.

“This game was on our home turf and I wanted to see some Shanahan pride,’ Capuano said. “We weren’t playing our game nor playing smart. We wanted to give them a jolt.’

Alex Wendig scored after the timeout for Shanahan’s first goal since the 16:43 mark of the first half to put the Eagles down 7-2 with 8:48 to play.

After Shanahan foced an East turnover, Alyssa Manley fired a one-timer past Emily Robinson to make it 7-3. Wendig followed with her third goal of the game as the Eagles trailed 7-4 with 5:33 left.

With Shanahan playing desperate defense as East’s game plan was to control possession, two Eagles defenders knocked the ball losse at midfield leading to Manley’s second goal of the game. Shanahan trailed 7-5 with 3:22 left.

The Cougars were able to manage two and a half minutes off the clock before Shanahan could regain possession. Kelci O’Donnell picked up the ball and took it upfield, scoring her 36th goal of the season as the Eagles cut East’s lead to 7-6 with 37.7 seconds left.

Despite being on the verge of an epic collapse, the Cougars did not panic. There was too much at stake to show fear.

“Going through a panic would have only hurt us,’ said Tori Barretta, who led East with three goals. “As long as we stayed calm, played good defense and got the ball back, the game was ours. That’s what we were able to do once we got the ball and held on for the win.’

Kollhoff winning the draw control ended the Shanahan comeback attempt, but also preserved a strong first 35 minutes for East.

Despite being outplayed in the first half, Robinson stopped six shots, including two from the 8-meter mark, to keep the Cougars up 2-1 heading into halftime. She finished with nine saves for the game.

“Emily coming up with those saves kept the game where it was,’ said East head coach Christa Somits. “The defense deserves some credit today as well. That was huge for us keeping their offense at bay. Our offense was where it was because of how our defense played today.’

Barretta leads East with 36 goals this season. Kollhoff finished with two goals and has 33 for the year.

Wendig led the Eagles with three goals and Manley had two in the loss. Manley leads Shanahan with 37 goals on the season.

Even though Capuano’s words didn’t lead Shanahan to victory, the Eagles did respond with five goals in an 8:11 span to climb back into the game. Shanahan also accomplished the feat with four starters out and plenty of underclassmen earning varsity minutes.

“I have to give them kudos for that,’ Capuano said. “They rallied and did a nice job pumping each other up. Unfortunately fo us, it was just a little too late.’

With arguably East winning its biggest game of the season, the Cougars would prefer to keep the momentum going. Especially since Great Valley and Unionville remain as two of the final four games on their league schedule.

“This was a really important game for us,’ Kollhoff said. “It’s awesome to get a big win like this and I’m glad we were able to pull this one out.’

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