Tredyffrin >> In the final minute of Downingtown East’s 1-0 razor-thin win at Conestoga Wednesday evening, Cougar junior goalie Ava Irwin kept her cool.
Irwin, who had a dozen saves to that point, was impenetrable at Teamer Field Wednesday evening, despite the fact that No. 7 seed Conestoga had one of the nation’s all-time top scorers in Charlotte de Vries and was second in District 1 in total team scoring.
Against D-East Wednesday evening, the prolific Pioneers had a 13-1 advantage in corners and an 11-1 margin in shots on goal. But the Cougars, who beat Oxford 5-0 in the first round of the PIAA District 1 tournament Monday (Conestoga had a first-round bye), prevailed in Round No. 2.
Irwin said, “In the last minute, I was thinking that I want our defense to keep playing hard. If something goes in, I know we can come through in overtime, we’ve got it. I just want to play hard, and I know my team has me [covered].
“When the buzzer went off, I was, like, in shock, Conestoga has beaten us the last couple of years [in Districts], and there was so much adrenaline, and realizing that my team won, I was just speechless.”
Downingtown East defeats Conestoga 1-0 @DLNSports @PaPrepLive pic.twitter.com/mLtBbSoTI1
— Main Line Sports (@MLineSports) October 24, 2018
With the victory, 10th seed Downingtown East extends its season, and will travel to No. 2 seed Perkiomen Valley Friday at 3:30 p.m. for the quarterfinals (the top six teams in District 1 AAA earn a berth in the PIAA state tournament.)
For Conestoga (15-4), the season is over.
Conestoga head coach JaJa Kentwell said, “I think we really played well today. Sometimes, you can have a fantastic game and you can have a lot of shots on goal but all you need is one goal to win a game.
“Give credit to Downingtown East – they played their hearts out. They’re a very competitive team that never gives up, and every girl on that team has a lot of fight in them. They outworked us in a lot of areas, and their goalkeeper had a fantastic game. We had a lot of opportunities but we weren’t able to score a goal, sometimes it happens.”
In the first half, Conestoga controlled the ball for much of the time in D-East’s defensive half, but Irwin and a tough defense kept the Pioneers at bay.
Downingtown East head coach Meg Kahanowitz said, “Everybody on the field stepped us tonight. Ava Irwin is the backbone of our defense and has been all season, and she just totally rose to the occasion today. Siena Urbanski was marking Charlotte [de Vries] and she did an awesome job, as did Paige Wolfe.
“Sarah Parks and Rachel Swink have been so solid and consistent for us all season, and they rose to the occasion, kept their composure, which is exactly what we needed against a team as talented as Conestoga.”
Interestingly, the Pioneers had defeated Downingtown East in their District 1 playoff opener each of the last two years. But this time, Irwin and company did not allow a single Conestoga shot to get through.
Downingtown East junior goalie Ava Irwin said, “I usually bring it out for Conestoga; they play really hard shots. Char [de Vries] has really good corner shots. In the first half, on a corner, Char took a shot from the top, I just got a tip on it with my foot, and it went out, and I was so relieved.
“I felt good about this game all week – it was like, ‘We’re going to win on Monday, we’re going to win on Wednesday, and we’re going to play on Friday.’”
While Conestoga had the ball in D-East’s defensive half much of the second half, the Cougars got the ball out midway through the half, and took their only shot of the game, by senior Caroline Webb, with 20:30 left in the contest.
“Paige Wolfe got the ball at about the 25, and there was an open space between about four Conestoga players, and she passed it to me,” said Webb. “I knew I didn’t have a good angle, but I figured I’d take a shot anyway. I didn’t know if it would be good or not, because everyone was screaming, but once it went in, everything clicked and I celebrated with my teammates.”
Conestoga kept pounding away deep in Downingtown East’s defensive half, but kept coming up empty. As the clock clicked down to its final few minutes- the tension increased – on both sides.
Kahanowitz said, “In the final minute, I was just praying that we were going to use a little time with our free hits, stay composed and make smart decisions. We never let up. This win is incredible.”
“In the last minute, I just thought let’s just hold the ball and stay cool, calm and collected,” said Webb. “Overall, we played so good as a team – we did not have a lot of fouls, and we did so well on defensive corners.
“I think that in the last minute we just wanted to get the ball out of our defensive end and put it in the corner; and that’s what we ending up doing in the last few minutes, we just aired the ball into the corners, away from the Conestoga defense.”
Thus ends the high school career of de Vries, who was second in the PIAA in goals (59) and total points, and the all-time Conestoga leader in goals (173) and total points.
Kentwell said, “The result is disappointing but we have to live with it, we have to learn from our losses, and grow as a team moving forward. We have a lot of young kids coming up, we’re a young team.”
The young Pioneer point-producers who will return next fall include junior forward Chloe Ziegler, who scored 17 goals this season; sophomore midfielder Carly Hynd (20 assists); freshman midfielder Caroline O’Brien (13 assists); and freshman defender Maia Dechiario (11 assists).
Downingtown East 1, Conestoga 0
Downingtown East 0 1 – 1
Conestoga 0 0 – 0
Goals: Webb (DE).
Goalie saves: Irwin (DE) 13; Clemson (CO) 0.