Mansaray happy Penn Wood getting playoff shot

LANSDOWNE >> The final week of the regular season was full of memories for Penn Wood’s John Mansaray.
The senior midfielder spared many a thought on the last time his Patriots made the District One Class AAA playoffs — as a No. 28 seed in 2012 with the Del Val League’s automatic berth, only to be routed by No. 5 Downingtown West, 6-0.

Starting Friday, another disappointment replaced that: A 3-3 draw with Academy Park that could’ve spelled the end of the Patriots’ 2015 playoff aspirations.

When news arrived late Saturday that preliminary numbers had Penn Wood in the field, Mansaray was ecstatic and relieved.

“I was shocked when I saw that,” Mansaray said. “I was at work and my friend sent me the picture and I was like, ‘oh wow, we made it.’ I thought we weren’t going to make it because we tied with AP. That really bothered me. I went home thinking about that game, all day, all night, even the next day.”

Now the attention turns to that first memory and endeavoring to avoid a repeat of the downer three years ago when No. 28 Penn Wood (11-5-2) visits No. 5 Owen J. Roberts (14-4) in Tuesday’s first round.

Penn Wood's Prince Bla, left, and John Marsaray run during a practice session Monday. The Patriots, the No. 28 seed in the District One Class AAA playoffs, will end a three-year postseason absence Tuesday against Owen J. Roberts. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)
Penn Wood’s Prince Bla, left, and John Marsaray run during a practice session Monday. The Patriots, the No. 28 seed in the District One Class AAA playoffs, will end a three-year postseason absence Tuesday against Owen J. Roberts. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)

Penn Wood’s finish was a nail-biter. The Patriots lost to Strath Haven, 2-1, and drew AP last week, sending them plummeting in the power rankings. Preliminary figures Saturday put them fractions ahead of Del Val champ Interboro, but the dendritic system that weighs in the schedules of opponents’ opponents means one minor alteration would drastically reshape the field.

The official numbers, released Monday, read thusly:

Penn Wood, 8.2377

Interboro, 8.2365

By 12 ten-thousandths of a point, Penn Wood was in.

The Penn Wood players, to their credit, aren’t taking much public joy in the suffering of their Del Val rival. Instead, the emphasis is on a season in which the Patriots went toe-to-toe with Strath Haven, Lower Merion and Radnor, besting the latter two.

“The harder the schedule is, the better we play,” defender Romaine Thompson said. “The harder the teams we get, we have to work harder to be able to conquer these teams. The harder the schedule is, the tougher the team becomes, the more dominant we are and we’re able to take advantage of the teams we play.”

The Patriots know they’ll be the underdog against Owen J., but they’re not satisfied with just a ticket to the postseason. When Penn Wood is on its game, its skill and individual artistry can present problems to more physical, better organized teams.

The Patriots also believe that they can cope with being overlooked by others.

“I know people are going to take us as an underdog, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be a game,” Mansaray said. “Whatever happens, happens, but we’ve got to keep our head up. …

“Anytime I think about (the Downingtown West game), it really gets to me and pushes me harder and further,” he added. “It really motivates me for this year’s playoffs to really focus and leave everything on the field. No matter what, we’ve got to play hard tomorrow.”

“This is our senior year, so we tried our best to be there, even though there’s games that we lost,” Thompson said. “But it’s basically the World Cup to us. It means everything to us.”

Also in the District One Class AAA boys playoffs:

No. 25 Strath Haven at No. 8 North Penn, 4

The record isn’t very impressive for Haven (9-8-1), but it’s gone through rough patches thanks to injuries. Healthy again, the Panthers are coming off a loss to No. 6 seed Pennsbury, 4-1, but that could be a good tuneup for the postseason’s intensity.

North Penn (12-4-2) finished second in the Suburban One Continental to No. 1 overall seed Central Bucks East. It overcame a two-game losing streak to La Salle and No. 8 seed Pennridge before finishing the season with two straight wins.

No. 26 Garnet Valley at No. 7 Abington, 3

The Jaguars (9-7-2) required four straight wins to squeak into the postseason, though beyond a 1-0 win over Strath Haven, quality wins are few and far between on their resume.

Abington (14-4) claimed the Suburban One National crown over Pennsbury and Council Rock North. The Ghosts were unbeaten in nonleague play at 4-0.

No. 18 Radnor at No. 15 Council Rock North, 5

The Raiders (10-3-5) enter the postseason on a three-game winless streak, the only match against a playoff team being a 2-2 draw with No. 16 Wissahickon. Despite the long trip, they get a winnable game at CR North (11-4-3), which finished third in a crowded Suburban One National. The Indians are unbeaten outside the league with a 3-0-1 record.

No. 19 Central Bucks West at No. 7 Marple Newtown, 7

The Tigers (14-4) host the only Delco game of the opening round. They’ve won eight of nine, led by their dynamic duo of Hunter Dyson (18 goals, nine assists) and George Lambritsios (15 goals).

The early-season propensity for draws meant that Garnet Valley (8-6-4) had to turn it on late, winning six of its last eight games to claim the final spot in the District One Class AAA Tournament and earn a first-round date at No. 5 Boyertown Tuesday night (7 p.m.).

Girls Soccer

No. 28 Garnet Valley at No. 5 Boyertown, 7

Freshmen Gia Dragoni and Julia Burnell contributed greatly during that stretch run. One of the two losses in that stretch, though, was to Owen J. Roberts, which finished a spot behind Boyertown (14-1-1) in the Pac-10 Liberty Division. The Bears’ only loss came to No. 4 seed Spring-Ford, 1-0, in mid-September.

No. 18 Penncrest at No. 15 Radnor, 7

As she often is, Maura Holst was the game-changer for Radnor (10-3-5) when the teams met Oct. 3, a 2-1 Radnor win in overtime. That was part of a string of five straight overtime contests for Penncrest (12-5-1), which owes its lower seed to a weaker schedule than the Raiders. The overtime challenges, though, have steeled the Lions, while having forward Olivia Mancarella back in the goals is helpful.

No. 26 Haverford at No. 7 Strath Haven, 7

There’s a wide gulf in the seeds, thanks to the Panthers’ better nonleague record. But when these teams tangled three weeks ago, all the separated them was a Lizzie King overtime goal in a 1-0 Haven victory.

The Fords (10-5-3) enter with momentum, having beaten Methacton and drawn No. 14 seed Council Rock North. Expect a tight game here: Central League champion Strath Haven (12-3-2) has allowed multiple goals in a game just once since mid-September.

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