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Stubborn Haverford falls in OT to CB East

HAVERFORD >> For the first 25 minutes of Central Bucks East’s second-half onslaught Friday afternoon, the Haverford defense held firm. In the face of 12 shots on goal, eight penalty corners and a field that seemed tilted toward the cage tended by Mary Grace DePlato, Haverford managed to nurture its one-goal lead.

But with the avalanche of chances created by the Patriots, sooner or later something had to give. Eventually, thanks to a pair of penalty corners, CB East gained its ticket to states.

Riley Donnelly set up Mackenzie Boyle’s equalizer with less than five minutes to play to send the game to overtime, where Donnelly won it, a 2-1 result for the No. 5 seed Patriots in the District 1 Class 3A quarterfinals.

CB East (17-3) heads to the PIAA tournament and District 1 semis Tuesday, to take on top-seeded Downingtown West. Haverford (17-3) hosts No. 9 Unionville Tuesday for one of the district’s two playback berths.

Despite all the machinations the Patriots tried on their bevy of penalty corners, the direct approach finally netted Donnelly the winner, on attempt No. 15. Cailey Lever inserted the corner directly to the senior captain, who blasted a shot past DePlato for the winner at 10:35 of OT.

“Sometimes when it’s down to the end, the little passes can mess it up,” Donnelly said. “Sometimes they’re open, sometimes they’re not. But I think we were just keeping it simple and hoping to get one in there.”

The overtime rocket differed from the East opener, where Donnelly changed direction off a corner and slipped a pass to Boyle to rattle into the back of the cage with 4:39 to play.

That goal was the outlier to the Fords’ staunch defense, which valiantly withstood large disadvantages in shots (23-6 for the game) and penalty corners (15-5) as an even first half devolved into one-way traffic from the chasing Patriots.

The backline of Meg Phillips, Amber Moscoe and Shannon Quaile held firm, with Phillips providing a defensive save in each half and Quaile twice batting down dangerous shots near the cage.

Add in the shot-blocking of Sydney Corcoran from midfield, and DePlato’s seven saves wasn’t as gaudy as it could’ve been.

“It’s tough to stay mentally in on defense when it’s coming straight at you every single second,” Phillips said. “But it’s nice to see your teammates are all coming back and supporting you. We just needed to get it out. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen enough. … It’s both looking at angles and luck, just being in the right place and the right time.”

It seemed long ago that the Fords had the lead, with Kelsy Knapp scoring less than three minutes into the contest. In a fitting bookend to how Donnelly ended it, Knapp took a Carly Gannon corner and powered it into the cage from the top of the circle.

“We just try to go to the simplest one, because it’s the fastest and you get it off right away,” Knapp said. “We want to see what their defense is like, so we want to do a straight shot first.”

The first half was relatively balanced, East holding an 8-6 edge in shots but Haverford ahead in corners, 5-3. Haverford had a chance to make it 2-0 in the final minutes of the first half, but freshman goalie Emily Bullard (three saves) flashed out a pad to deny Jane Zarella on a break.

It would be the last time the Fords had such an opportunity.

East nearly breached the defense with an Erin Donnelly shot that Quaile cleared off the line nine minutes into the second, then DePlato denied a Boyle shot eight minutes later. Even after conceding, the Fords’ will wasn’t broken.

“It was hard because I thought, ‘Oh we can just hold it down for five more minutes. We can keep sprinting and hold it back,’” Knapp said. “Once they continued to keep getting those corners and everything, one is bound to go in. We just had to fight back.”

That resilience, which didn’t pan out Friday, is a microcosm for the next four days as the Fords aim to rebound to fulfill their states dream.

“Emotionally, we all have each other,” Phillips said. “I think we’ve just got to talk it out, get some communication going, maybe listen to some good music, get hyped and then take on the challenge.”

In Class 2A:

Villa Maria 6, Strath Haven 0 >> Emily Doyle tallied four times to send the top-seeded Hurricanes into next Tuesday’s semifinals against fourth-seeded Upper Perkiomen, a 2-1 winner over fifth-seeded Merion Mercy.

That’s who the ninth-seeded Panthers will face in the playback round. The top five teams advance to the PIAA Tournament.

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