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Unionville’s Cinderella run continues; Longhorns shock Downingtown West in OT

DOWNINGTOWN >> Just nine days earlier, on the very same lacrosse field, the Unionville boys suffered a lopsided seven goal defeat to Downingtown West.

But on Thursday, in the second round of the District 1 3A Playoffs, the visiting Longhorns exorcized some demons and summoned up their most complete outing of the season, which led to the biggest upset so far in the post season.

Junior midfielder Kevin Carson notched one of the biggest goals in program history in the final two minutes of overtime, propelling No. 19 Unionville to a shocking 7-6 victory over the third-seeded Whippets.

“We played (West) a week ago Tuesday and kind of got blown out,” Carson said. “But we prepared for this all week and we were ready.

“We put the work in and deserved this one.”

Now 12-8 overall, the Longhorns have already won two postseason road games and advance into the district quarterfinals to face sixth seeded Garnet Valley on Saturday. The win also guarantees at least two more playoff outings for Unionville, who could – at the very least — still earn a spot in the PIAA Tournament in playbacks.

It’s already shaping up like a potential Cinderella story.

“Before we left on the bus to come here, our athletic director (Pat Crater) told us that we have the potential to do what Garnet Valley did a few years ago, where they were the 23rd seed and went to the state final,” said ’Horns goaltender Nico Kotch. “I think we have the potential to do something like that as well.”

For the Whippets, it was a devastating setback in their initial postseason contest after a first round bye. The Ches-Mont runner-up, West’s season ends with a 16-3 record.

“It’s horrible to see that this season is over, but I’ve loved playing every second with these guys,” said junior defender Thomas Venzie.

“(Unionville) came out flying around, they are well coached and their goalie is very good,” added Whippets’ head coach Billy Davis. “We beat them by seven the first time but they made the adjustments. The better team tonight won.”

The Longhorns dropped four one-goal games during the regular season, and two others by a couple. But on Thursday, Unionville saved its best for the end, outscoring West 5-2 in the second half and OT.

“We have so many seniors and we didn’t want things to end,” said Longhorns’ head coach Steve Holmes. “We preached how important every possession is, and we just played our best lacrosse.

“It’s massive to win a one-goal game at this juncture of the season. We’ve been preaching to fight and stay in it – that we can play with anybody so stay close and eventually it will tip our way. So for that to happen, it’s unbelievable.”

Trailing 5-2 at the half, Unionville inched its way back into contention thanks to an Owen Kupsey goal in the third quarter (off an assist by Carson), and an unassisted gem by Carson in the first two minutes of the final period.

The ’Horns Luc Spano notched the equalizer with 8:10 on the clock, only to see the Whippets regain the lead on a tally by Kevin Lundmark at the 2:58 mark. But less than a minute later, Carson took a pass from Kupsey to knot it again. And then Unionville survived a 30 second penalty at the end of regulation and into the overtime.

“We just kept saying that it will open up as long as we keep attacking, and that takes a lot of discipline,” Holmes said. “We played team ball and just trusted each other. Nobody cared who scored.”

And then, with 1:47 on the clock of the first (four minute) overtime, Carson took a pass from Spano and beat West keeper Zach Rossman for the emotional winner.

“It was a huge goal by Kevin, who has been steady for us all season,” Holmes said.

“The ball came my way on the right side, one of (West’s) short-stick defenders came at me with a bad approach, so I just went underneath, shot it and hoped for the best,” Carson explained.

“It was huge. I’ve never had a goal that big.”

Carson finished with a game-high four goals and an assist, while Kupsey registered two goals and an assist. On defense, Kotch was electric, turning aside 16 shots.

“We’ve played great defense this year, at times, and great offense, at times,” Holmes pointed out. “But today our defense gave us a chance to fight back and it was pretty awesome.

“Defensively we have a bunch of guys who’ve really bought in – they have been watching film at lunch all week.”

The Longhorns busted out of the gate to take the early lead just two minutes in on a goal by Carson. And when Kupsey notched a goal, it gave Unionville a 2-1 lead.

But the Whippets stormed back with four straight goals and took a 5-2 lead into the halftime break. Kevin Lundmark finished off a fast break in the final minute of the opening quarter, and then Bret Bergey, Owen Lundmark and Michael Straub each scored in a 96-second span midway through the second.

“Maybe our energy was a little low at times, but we did not take (Unionville) lightly,” Venzie said.

Straub, West’s faceoff specialist, wound up winning 16 of 17 from the circle, but somehow the Longhorns were able to overcome it.

“This is an amazing feeling – I still want to scream at the top of my lungs,” Kotch said afterwards. “This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in sports in my life.”

Unionville 7, Downingtown West 6 (OT)

Unionville                                         2 0 1 3 1 — 7

Downingtown West                       2 3 0 1 0 — 6

Unionville goals: Carson 4, Spano, Kupsey 2.

Downingtown West goals: Venzie, K. Lundmark 2, Straub, Bergey, O. Lundmark.

Goalie saves: Kotch (U) 16; Rossman (DW) 5.

 

 

 

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