DOWNINGTOWN—You’d be hard pressed to find two field hockey programs better than Downingtown West and Conestoga in District 1 over the last five years. Both teams won district titles, and have made regular appearances in the state tournament, with West finishing as state runner-up in 2017.
So it was a little strange seeing the No. 8 Whippets squaring off against the No. 9 Pioneers so early, in the second round of the District 1, Class 3A playoffs, with the loser seeing its season come to an end. West (14-5) earned the right to move on, topping Conestoga (14-5) by a convincing 6-0 margin.
With the win, West moves into Friday’s quarterfinal round, where they will face top-seeded Garnet Valley, a 2-0 winner over No. 16 CB South Wednesday. The Jags are the lone unbeaten team in Class 3A.
“All season long we kind of flip-flopped spots in the rankings with Conestoga,” said West coach Steph Bullock. “This past week in practice, we worked a lot inside the 25, working on transitions from the mids up. We had a tough schedule, which probably had us seeded a little low, but Also helped us improve as a team. We’re peaking at the right time and feel like we can go a long way.”
West thoroughly dominated the first half of the game, and held a 11-0 advantage in penalty corners over the first 30 minutes. The Whippets held possession enough that a Conestoga trip across midfield, let alone inside the circle, was rare.
The Whippets forced five penalty corners over the first five minutes, but didn’t get on the board until Ciara Margetich grabbed a ball in a crowd and hit a rocket off the back wood of the cage, just inside the 20-minute mark. Tatum Johnson was credited with an assist.
West scored again just before halftime when Ciana Riccardo accepted a pass from Kari Schmidt and deposited it for a 2-0 halftime lead.
“We wanted to score in the first two minutes,” said Margetich. “But we did get a corner in the first two, and a few more after that. Once that first one went in, it seemed to give us a spark.”
The second half proved to be more of the same, with West just picking up even more momentum. And the goals started coming and coming. Four in the second half total.
Ashley Plzak started the barrage, feeding Alyssa Freeman with a pass, and Freeman sending it home. Riccardo second score of the game came on a penalty stroke to make it 4-0. And then the Whippets started making it look easy.
Awarded their sixteenth corner of the game, Tatum Johnson sent the insert up to Riccardo, who put it right back on the stick of Johnson, who slipped in the easy score behind the goalie.
Moments later, Schmidt brought the ball up the right side, and passed forward to Plzak. Plzak started up the endline, and zipped a pass to Tatum, who tapped it in for her second of the game and a 6-0 lead that would hold up as the final.
“It has been great seeing the things we work so hard on in practice pay off for us in games,” said Riccardo. “The connections we’re making and the passing and communication has been great. We feel like we are playing like a team that can go far. We can play and beat anyone—we just have to play our game.”
The season comes to a close for Conestoga, but not without signs of good things coming in the future.
“We only had three returning starters this season,” said Conestoga coach Regan Marscher. “So we had a lot of youth on the team, and they picked up invaluable experience. We have a lot coming back, so the future is bright. But give West credit—that is a very good team; extremely skilled and fast. They might be the hottest team in the district right now. They could go all the way.”
Conestoga 0 0 –0
DTown West 2 4 –6
Goals: Riccardo (2), Johnson (2), Freeman, Margetich
Goalie Saves: Clements ( C ) 6, Schmidt (DW) 3
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