BOOTHWYN—It’s always important to do your homework.
Coming into Thursday’s game against Conestoga, Garnet Valley was riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, and were looking to top the Pioneers for the first time in nearly a decade. The Jaguars, ranked second in District 1 AAA, are looking to end Conestoga’s stranglehold on the central League title. So they scouted Conestoga, and scouted some more, looking for any little edge they could find.
And it worked. The Jags played impenetrable defense, and made a single goal stand up as the game winner. With the 1-0 victory, Garnet improves to 11-0 on the season, while the Pioneers fall to 9-2.
“We really did our homework on Conestoga,” said Jags coach Sandy Leiti. “We kind of had an idea what to expect—we had an idea of how they would pressure offensively, how they approached their defensive corners, and we practiced those scenarios. The girls really executed and this was a big win for us.”
The first half couldn’t have been much more even, with both teams getting offensive chances and getting the ball in the circle. But neither team could manage to find the back of the cage until the first half was just about over.
In the last minute of the half, the Jags forced a penalty corner, their third of the game, matching Conestoga. Kiley Gallagher put the ball in play on the insert, sending it to Kayla Snyder at the top of the circle. Snyder drifted to her right, and unleashed a shot through a crowd, just past the extended leg of the Pioneer goalie and into the wood on the left hand side of the cage.
“We have been practicing that corner a lot, and I’d been having trouble keeping the shot down,” said Snyder. “But I got the ball, and gave it a shot. It felt great when it went in—it was really important for us to take the lead into halftime. We were nervous coming in, but we’re also confident in ourselves and believed we could get this win.”
Conestoga wasn’t about to just disappear, and really picked up the pace in the second half, outcorrnering the Jags by a 7-2 margin in the half. But the Jags defense, anchored by goalies Megan Finnegan and Maura Greek, were up to the task. Not only did Garnet keep Conestoga off the board, despite the high number of trips inside the circle, the Pioneers only got off three shots in the second half.
“We knew they liked to travel in threes and attack us all at once,” said Greek. “It can be really hard to defend when they are crashing like that. The toughest part is staying there mentally, but we all stayed positive. It’s an amazing feeling to knock off a team like Conestoga.”
The Pioneers will face an uphill battle in the quest to extend their league championship to eight, but there is no doubt that this is a team with the ability to advance deep into the post season in districts and beyond.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Conestoga coach Regan Marscher. “But we can’t dwell on it too long. We have North Penn (Friday) so we have to be back on our game quickly. Overall, we just didn’t come out the way we have most of the year. I thought our midfielders and our defensive unit really worked their butts off, and we had more than our share of opportunities. We just didn’t finish.”
The Jags now look to be on a collision course with Radnor for the league crown. Radnor is also unbeaten on the season, and is ranked No. 1 in District 1, AA. The two teams will play the final game of the regular season.
“We can’t think ahead like that,” said Leiti. “We’ve gotten to this point taking things one game at a time. So right now, we are all just going to focus on our next game against West Chester East.”
Conestoga 0 0 –0
Garnet Valley 1 0 –1
Goalie saves: Clemson ( C ) 0, Finnegan (GV) 1, Greek (GV) 5