LONDON GROVE >> It’s ridiculously early in a boys’ lacrosse campaign like no other, coming on the heels of a pandemic-fueled hiatus dating back nearly two years.
But Downingtown West’s impressive 7-4 road win at Avon Grove on Tuesday would be noteworthy under any circumstances. It was a victory at a place, and against a program, that doesn’t happen often. And it moves the Whippets to 2-0 in the Ches-Mont (3-2 overall) and into the discussion as a legitimate league contender.
“We have a great shot as long as we continue to play as a team,” said West sophomore Bret Bergey, who scored the game-winner and added two more goals and an assist.
“The boys are definitely fired up about this one,” added Whippets’ head coach Billy Davis. “They just had a great game both offensively and defensively. They eliminated the mistakes.”
On the flip side, it’s been a long, long time since the Red Devils opened a season 0-2. And even though rookie head coach Brian Wallace is still looking for his first win at the helm, Avon Grove looked a lot like a young team, playing its second match against a foe playing its fifth.
“When you have game experience, especially this year, it’s definitely going to help you,” he said. “We are looking to get better every practice and every game.
“If we go out and set the precedent every day in practice to get better and stay hungry, the sky is the limit for this group. We are young, but we have to make sure no matter who they are and what grade level, it is not an excuse. We have to get better.”
Everybody has inexperience this year, of course. Bergey, for instance, is a high school rookie due to the cancellation of the 2020 season. And fellow attacker Kevin Lundmark – who added two goals – is just a junior. And together, the duo outscored the Devils.
“We played a great game – the offense and the defense were buzzing, and everybody was playing together,” Bergey said.
But the big difference came on defense. With a strong unit in front of him, Whippets’ goaltender Zach Rossman held the Avon Grove attack scoreless for more than 37 minutes, which turned an early deficit into a stress-free triumph.
“That obviously can’t happen,” Wallace said of the drought, which stretched from late in the first period to the final 87 seconds of regulation.
“This is the first time any of us have beaten Avon Grove, so this was a huge win,” said Rossman, a junior.
“We kind of know our team and we have our chemistry down, so that might have helped.”
With early goals from Jacob Vitone, Trent Lucovich and Griffin Edwards in the opening nine minutes of play, the Devils jumped in front, 3-1. But West proceeded to score the next six goals to take command. Lundmark started the rally, junior Michael Straub kept it going, and then Bergey took over.
His second quarter goal – on a marvelous individual effort – put the Whippets ahead 4-3 at the half. Bergey then he added two more in the second half, both unassisted and coming on powerful, yet skillful moves to the cage.
“We needed to get the intensity back, so that (second) quarter was big,” Bergey said.
“Momentum swings are huge, especially early in the season,” Wallace added. “West is a good team, they capitalized on our mistakes.”
Lundmark also added a fourth period goal, and Avon Grove was unable to end its lengthy scoreless streak until it was far too late.
“The way we came out in the first quarter, I was a little skeptical,” Rossman acknowledged. “But we shut them out in the second and third quarters.”
Rossman finished with 13 saves, including six in the final period to prevent any sort of comeback. Red Devil’s keeper, Matt Rayne, also played well, including a six-save first quarter.
“Turnovers were our biggest issue – making sure we are connecting passes,” Wallace pointed out. “It’s something we’ve been preaching in the off-season, to possess it and make sure we are controlling our own destiny.”
Downingtown West 7, Avon Grove 4
Downingtown West 2 2 1 2 – 7
Avon Grove 3 0 0 1 — 4
Downingtown West goals: Bergey 3, Lundmark 2, Straub, Rachau.
Avon Grove goals: Vittone 2, Lucovich, Edwards.
Goalie saves: Rossman (DW) 13; Rayne (AG) 13.
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