Strong first half lifts Conestoga past Shanahan

DOWNINGTOWN — Sondra Dickey is confident in Conestoga’s man-up offense.

Once the Pioneers got the opportunity to showcase it, Dickey was certain Conestoga would capitalize and extend its current three-goal lead.

Where did her confidence come from? A trip to Florida over spring break.

“When we were playing Vero Beach in Florida, we scored three or four goals during a man-up,’ Dickey said. “That’s when I knew we had a pretty good man-up offense. We focus on that the most in practice and get the results.’

Dickey was correct in her assessment as Conestoga scored three goals in 58 seconds, all in the man-up offense, to break the game open in the first half of a 16-5 win over Bishop Shanahan in a nonleague matchup of two of the top teams in District 1 on a picture-perfect sunny Saturday afternoon.

The Pioneers (15-1), ranked first in the District 1 power rankings, won their 15th straight game. The Eagles (11-4), ranked ninth in the district, are 2-2 since a nine game winning streak that ended with a loss to Downingtown East eight days ago.

Conestoga’s offense, which averages 14.6 goals a game, was on display throughout the first half. The Pioneers were able to get off 11 shots in the first 11:07 of the game to build a 5-2 lead despite Shanahan goalie Christina Decesaris stopping three shots to keep the Shanahan deficit at three goals.

Then Kenzie Staska was sent to the penalty area with 11:23 left in the first half which put Conestoga on the man up for two minutes.

As Dickey predicted, the Pioneers took advantage.

Rylee Scott scored in transition as the Pioneers took a 6-2 lead. After winning the draw control, Hannah Ashton scored in transition 15 seconds later to put Conestoga up 7-2. Dickey capped the rally with a one-timer past Decesaris as Conestoga led 8-2 and put the game away.

Three goals in 58 seconds was all it took for one of the district’s top attacks.

“We saw a lot of fast break opportunities and decided to take advantage of it,’ Scott said. “We’re a fast team and we like to use that mentality on offense. It was all about keeping the momentum going and that pushed us.’

“We just can’t make the mistakes and when he did, Conestoga was all over it,’ said Shanahan head coach Laura Capuano. “We can’t have breakdowns against a good team like Conestoga. We have to go back to basics and minimize those mistakes.’

The Pioneers scored six unanswered goals to take a 10-2 lead at halftime. Dickey scored all of her game-high four goals in the first half while Scott had three in the win.

Shanahan came out firing in the second half with two unanswered goals, one from Maddie Staska and Alyssa Manley, to cut the deficit to 10-4 with 22:24 to play.

That was the closest the Eagles got as Conestoga responded with six unanswered goals to turn the win into a blowout.

Shanahan treated the defeat as a test for the District 1 playoffs, which it will certainly be a part of. The Eagles are in the midst of their best season in school history after shocking the Ches-Mont League last season by going 12-6 and winning a district playoff game.

Despite its success in 2015, Shanahan’s four losses are to teams with a combined record of 51-10. With the playoffs looming, the Eagles looked at the positives of playing a team at Conestoga’s level.

“We see the small things we need to work on,’ said Kelci O’Donnell, who finished with a goalin the game. “It’s a great practice for what’s coming. We need to play these tough teams in order to be successful.

“Two years ago we were 4-11 and have improved tremendously. We’ve come such a long way and deserve everything we earned right now.’

NOTES — Shanahan’s Alyssa Manley scored two goals in the game, including her 40th of the year with 17:03 left in the first half. Manley leads the Eagles with 41 goals this season and has 59 in her career (18 as a freshman).

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