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Shorthanded Whippets outlast battle-hardened Avon Grove

LONDON GROVE >> If, as expected, the Downingtown West boys’ lacrosse squad goes on to do some special things this spring, they will look back fondly on Thursday’s trip to Avon Grove for its Ches-Mont opener.

Without their head coach and down three key starters, the Whippets still found a way to outlast a winless Red Devils’ squad that is light-years better than their record indicates. The final was 9-8, which leaves West unbeaten and keeps Avon Grove winless.

“We can’t take any opponent lightly, and we didn’t. We made a few mistakes here and there, but we got out of here with the win, and that’s huge for us,” said senior attacker Bret Bergey.

“It’s always a tough battle every year against Avon Grove,” added speedy midfielder Carter Grear. “It never comes easy.

“We came into this game riding high at 3-0, but knew it was going to be tough.”

To complicate matters, head coach Billy Davis was not at the game as his wife was giving birth. And a trio of key pieces – attacker Owen Lundmark, midfielder Dean Hangey and long-stick Luke Benis – were also out with injuries.

“We came out a little slow, but we picked it up,” Grear said. “We are missing a few injured guys. I am just proud of the boys the way we pulled it together.”

Locked in a 4-4 deadlock early in the third quarter, the Whippets (1-0, 4-0) broke it open with a 5-1 surge, which was spearheaded by Grear who scored three of his four goals to make it 9-6 heading into the final period. Long-stick defender William Ely got it going to end the tie, and then Grear scored off a pass from teammate Bram Monroe.

Grear proceeded to add two more goals on near identical moves from behind the cage, and Bergey chipped in with a man-up score. Every tally proved to be important as the Devils (0-2, 0-5) stormed back.

“The third quarter was huge,” Bergey said. “Carter scored three goals and that was a huge part of it. He is one guy you will rarely see sitting on the sidelines. He does everything for us. You get that kid the ball and he will clear the defensive zone, he plays defense and he can score goals just about any time he wants.”

Avon Grove started the comeback with quick man-up goals by seniors Trent Lucovich and Kyle Anthony that sliced the margin to two. And with 4:40 to go, Lucovich nearly scored again but was thwarted at the goal mouth by West keeper Dylan Stang.

It proved to be a big save, especially after Anthony notched his third goal of the match with nine seconds remaining. Time ran out before either side got possession on the ensuing faceoff.

The Devils are still looking for their first win, but they’ve faced, perhaps, the most challenging early schedule of any team in the state. In addition, star senior attacker Preston Boyd is out for the season after suffering a broken ankle in the season opener.

“No team wants their top guy to go down,” said Avon Grove head coach Brian Wallace. “Preston is a guy you can’t replace no matter what. But we have guys that were ready to step up. Josh Cox said ‘I’m ready to go,’ and he’s been playing very well.

“That’s our mentality – next man up.”

Avon Grove surrendered an average of 14.5 goals per game in its first four against Downingtown East, Springfield (Delco), Manheim Township and Spring-Ford. Thursday’s defensive outing was the best, which is encouraging when you consider that freshman goaltender Sean Boggetta played the whole way.

“Sean really stepped up,” Wallace said. “Our senior (Owen Fennessy) was out and he was ready to go to battle.

“We also have a lot of new guys on defense and today they stepped up and worked really well together.”

The Red Devils got off to a nice start, scoring on each of their first three shots on goal. But West’s Remi Hochhaus tied it at 3-3 late in the opening quarter, and Grear’s first goal (on a pass from Dylan Cicero) made it 4-3 at the half.

“These boys are probably more battle-tested than any team in the state,” Wallace said when asked about his team’s schedule.

“I’ve always said that I’d rather play teams that we should be able to compete against regardless the records, and learn from them.”

Outside of the quick start and the late rally, Avon Grove generated very few scoring chances. Boggetta finished with 12 saves, while Stang stopped seven, but four came in the final period. That means that the attack mounted just seven shots on goal in the opening 36 minutes of action.

“When you start off strong and you can get comfortable, and sometimes you take your foot off the gas,” Wallace said. “We can’t get too complacent. And we have to understand how important possession is.”

Anthony added an assist to his three goals. Junior Josh Cox (two goals, one assist) and Lucovich (two goals) also contributed for the Devils.

Grear also had an assist to go with his four goals.

“We have high hopes for this team,” he said. “We have a close group, and no matter how much talent you have, when a team has great chemistry and works hard, that’s what pays off in the end.”

Downingtown West 9, Avon Grove 8

Downingtown West                       3 1 5 0 — 9

Avon Grove                                      3 0 2 3 — 8

Downingtown West goals: Grear 4, Bergey 2, Ely, Hochhaus, Cetera.

Avon Grove goals: Anthony 3, Lucovich 2, Cox 2, Goldstein.

Goalie saves: Stang (DW) 7; Boggetta (AG) 12.




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