[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”21″ display=”basic_slideshow”]WEST CHESTER >> After rolling to a 12-0 win against Coatesville in its field hockey season opener, defending PIAA District 1 AAA champion Downingtown West faced a tougher challenge Wednesday.
The Whippets were facing a host West Chester Henderson squad (2-0) that lost only one starter to graduation last spring, and was off to a good start in 2020, defeating Avon Grove 2-1 and beating West Chester East 4-1.
Downingtown West passed Wednesday’s test, holding the Warriors scoreless in the second half for a hard-fought 3-1 win.
“This was a key win – Henderson has really [improved] from last year,” said Downingtown West Head coach Stephanie Bullock. “Our backs really stepped up today.”
Bullock was referring to the trio of D-West junior backs Gianna Jaszczak, Lauren Tinson and Peyton Margetich, all of whom started for the Whippets last year. Jaszczak posted 14 defensive saves last fall, fifth in Southeast Pennsylvania, and received Daily Local News all-area first team honors. Together, the trio feature a nice package of speed, field vision, transition skills and strong communication.
While Downingtown West moved the ball deep into Warrior territory several times in the first period Wednesday, the Whippets came up empty and the quarter ended in a 0-0 tie. Part of the reason was the fine play of Henderson junior goalie Abby Martin (10 saves).
“Abby has been very good in making the initial save, then re-organizing for the second save,” noted West Chester Henderson head coach Courtney Evans.
Four minutes into the second quarter, the Whippets cracked the scoring ice when sophomore forwards Ashley Plzak and Ciara Margetich teamed up for a goal. Plzak, who fed the speedy Margetich for the score, has been an assist leader for the Whippets, and Bullock noted her ability to create opportunities and transition into attack.
Just three minutes later, Henderson tied the score with a goal from senior midfielder Kylie Patton, assisted by senior attack Gianna Cugino.
“They showed really nice balance and discipline in the circle,” noted Evans.
Cugino, a Warrior co-captain, currently has three assists and three goals in three games.
The first half ended in a 1-1 tie, and with 9:41 to play in the third quarter, the Whippets’ duo of Plzak and Margetich teamed up again for a score that put Downingtown West ahead for good.
Early in the fourth quarter, Henderson gained momentum, putting together several drives deep into Whippet territory, but could not connect for a scoring shot.
“I think the play today was 50-50 as far as control of field play,” said Evans, who is starting her second year as head coach of the Warriors. “It was not our most consistent hockey today – we had [lapses] in passing sequences, but for these girls, it’s only their second year in a new system, and their game knowledge is growing every day.”
The Warriors (2-1) have five more regular-season games scheduled, starting with a trip to Downingtown East Monday.
Downingtown West, which enjoyed a 13-9 advantage in corners vs Henderson, increased its lead to 3-1 with 2:35 left on an unassisted scoring shot from senior midfielder Kari Schmidt.
Schmidt is an all-around performer who last fall scored six goals, dished out 12 assists and notched 11 defensive saves while serving as co-captain (along with Daily Local News Field Hockey Player of the Year Ciana Riccardo) and receiving first team all-area field hockey honors by the Daily Local News.
“We expect Kari to really step up on the offensive side this season,” Bullock said last Friday.
Following the Whippets’ win Wednesday, the Downingtown West coach noted, “Our backs stepped up, Kari did a great job transitioning, and Ashley and Ciara did a good job on attack. We need to do a little better on corners.
“We’ve needed to make adjustments [because of the late season start due to the COVID-19 pandemic], and our kids have done a great job adjusting to the [safety] protocol. They’ve really been working hard.”
Downingtown West 3, West Chester Henderson 1
Downingtown West 0 1 1 1 – 3
WC Henderson 0 1 0 0 – 1
Downingtown West goals: C. Margetich 2, Schmidt.
West Chester Henderson goals: Patton.
Goalie saves: DW – Chepow 6; WCH – Martin 10.