Kennett Square >> Under a blazing sun, 90 degree temperatures, and humidity that made it feel closer to 100, the Downingtown East girls’ soccer squad was hotter than the weather Wednesday afternoon at Kennett’s Legacy Field, steaming past the host Blue Demons 8-0.
The victory improved the defending Ches-Mont League champions’ record to 4-1-1, with their only defeat a 2-1 loss to Council Rock South Sept. 3.
“We’ve been playing well lately, and we wanted to continue doing the same thing today, go out and create chances,” said Downingtown East head coach Craig Reed. “We did well today moving off the ball, we did well in the final third.
“We were happy with the win today. We knew going in that Kennett had faced some tough opponents and came up with good results, but a few things went our way early today.”
In the first 16 minutes Wednesday, Downingtown East took a 4-0 lead on goals by senior Ella Marrollo, sophomore forward Caroline McDonald and senior forward Rebekah March. By game’s end, March, Marrollo and McDonald each had two goals scored. McDonald, a first team All-Ches-Mont League selection last fall, leads the Cougars this season with six goals scored.
“Caroline’s good off the ball, which helps her find space in dangerous areas,” said Reed. “She is a very, very smart player who creates a lot of space with her movement and technique, and has good players around her who give her chances to score.”
Senior center back and co-captain Emily Buckner, the Ches-Mont League’s MVP last year and a first team all-state selection as well as Daily Local News Player of the Year was in the middle of the Cougars’ attack Wednesday afternoon.
“We came out really strong in the first half,” said Buckner. “We were connecting well; we were passing the ball around and saving our energy, but at the same time we were finishing our drives.
“We have a lot of seniors  on our team this year. When we came in this fall, we were already comfortable playing with everyone on the team, we spent the summer practicing together. It just helps to have a core [veteran] group.”
Reed said, “Emily controls things in the middle of the field, and can adjust to different playing styles. She has great technical ability, sees the field really well, her range of passing is excellent – she can make all kinds of great passes, 30- 40-yard passes – and her shooting from long range is very good. She’s a great leader from the center back position, and she can go at it for 80 minutes.”
The Downingtown East squad features a sizable senior class, with 10 of them on the roster, including co-captains Emily Buckner, back Meg Buckner (Emily’s twin sister), defender Katie Hudachek and center back Maren Dougherty, who also scored a goal Wednesday.
D-East senior goalie Ashley Buchheit, who had an excellent pre-season for Cougars, recorded the shutout Wednesday. While the Cougars’ tough defense wasn’t allowing Kennett many shots at the goal, Buchheit made a couple of nice saves.
“Ashley has done really well for us this season,” noted Reed.
Both teams stopped play midway through each half for a water break, and Buckner reflected on Wednesday’s hot conditions.
“This weather is definitely what our pre-season was like,” Buckner said with a laugh. “You’re physically ready for it, so mostly it’s just a mental thing. We had the finesse to connect on our passes, and we were smart about it, doing it in a way to save energy.”
Wednesday’s heat allowed for plenty of player rotation on both teams. During the pre-season, Reed had mentioned that the Cougars featured good depth, as they did in 2018.
“We have 20 players on varsity, and we’ve played all 20 in many of our games this season,” said Reed. “We have a deep team, and we trust them all out there. It certainly helps, particularly as the season goes on, to be able to rotate a lot of players in.”
For Kennett (2-3), which has beaten Bishop Shanahan and Octorara, this season has been a learning experience under first-year head coach Ashley Ainsworth, who was an assistant coach last fall at West Chester Rustin.
“We have a good group of players who are willing to train hard, ask questions, and work together to make themselves better,” said Ainsworth. “They’re learning a new system, and they’re dedicated and willing to learn. It’s a learning process, for myself as well as for the players. This is my first time running a [high school] program. At the end of the day, my goal is just to make them have fun, continue their love for the game, and hopefully learn something in the process.”
The Kennett head coach sees the Blue Demons’ back line as a potential building block.
“We definitely have a strong back line with [seniors] Emma Connolly, Jordan Barish, [junior] Taylor Heimann and [sophomore] Mary Harper – they’re very smart players, they work very hard. Building out of the back, they’ve been a strong foundation; we have strong players in each part of the field, but it’s helpful to have a strong backfield leading us that way.”
Ainsworth, who is a counselor at West Chester Rustin, saw Wednesday’s loss as a bump in the road and a growth opportunity for the Blue Demons.
“I think coming against a team like Downingtown East, [our players] came out a little [mentally] flat today, I feel like they felt like they weren’t going to do as well as they could have,” said Ainsworth. “It’s really not how we’ve played every game this season, so I think today was a big wake-up call to make sure our players never underestimate themselves, or the other team.
“Moving forward, I think our girls feel really comfortable talking to me and having those conversations about the team’s [mental] temperature and what they can do moving forward, so it’s really a collaboration between me and the girls. There’s not a whole lot I could say today which the girls didn’t already know, so they’ve got to pick their heads up and move forward. They’ll learn from this.”
Downingtown East 8, Kennett 0
Downingtown East 5 3 – 8
Kennett 0 0 – 0
Downingtown East goals: March 2, McDonald 2, Marrollo 2, Prendergast, Dougherty.
Goalie saves: Buchheit (DE) 2.
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