DOWNINGTOWN >> Whether it is a game or practice, Downingtown East girls lacrosse coach Christa Somits has preached all year long that her team must be relentless.
Her message was received loud and clear on Thursday night. The Cougars had to overcome a 26-minute scoring drought and a three-goal deficit with under 12 minutes left in regulation, but in the end, Leah Hunter helped them prevail. The sophomore midfielder’s double-overtime goal helped her team upend crosstown foe Downingtown West, 8-7, at DiSerafino Stadium.
With a mere 67 seconds separating the two rivals from a tie, East’s senior Kallie Gray scooped up a loose ground ball and connected with Hunter who took the feed and riffled the ball into the net.
“It feels great to get this win,” Hunter said. “It was a team effort all the way. We were able to stay calm and settle the ball down and that’s what helped us get the goal.”
The Ches-Mont League clash proved to be a game of runs in regulation. Downingtown East (4-1, 6-3) hit the ground running early. Two goals by Tori Barretta as well as one apiece from Emily Wurzel and Livi Lawton gave the visitors the early 4-0 advantage.
With just under three minutes remaining in the first half, the Whippets (1-4, 3-6) responded. Following a defensive stop, West’s Corinne Bednarik galloped down the field and flipped a shot into the net to put her team on the scoreboard for the first time.
With seven seconds left in the opening frame, West’s defense was able to force a turnover that led to the freshman’s second goal as the buzzer rang.
“Coming into this game I thought our team had a lot of confidence. However I thought the anxiety of the game got in our heads early,” said West coach Britney Long. “Once we cleared our minds we were able to get our confidence back. Those two goals from Corinne (Bednarik) helped us get the ball rolling.”
The Whippets continued to roll in the final stanza. Three minutes in, sophomores Abby Cooper and Christine Hoerman netted goals to even the score.
Three more goals by Cooper, Hoerman and Drew McKinney gave the home team its largest lead of the game at 7-4.
“Once we got focused we were able to get our minds right,” said West sophomore midfielder Tabitha Rodriguez. “When we settled down we really got on a roll and were able to get hyped up.
Trailing by three with 11:43 left in the game, Downingtown East answered with another run of its own.
On the draw following West’s seventh goal, the Cougars won possession, and ended their offensive dry spell 12 seconds later courtesy of a goal from sophomore Sarah Enderlien.
Four minutes later the visitors caught a fortunate break. After their junior midfielder, Elise Person, was denied on an eight-meter shot, the rebound bounced off a Whippet defender and rolled into the net. Just 120 seconds later, they tied the game at 7-7 after Hunter collected her first goal of the game.
“It was a back and forth game. You have to give Downingtown West a lot of credit, they played really hard,” Somits said. “Composure is so important, and when we fall behind we have to stick together and play as a team. I think that was why we were able to come back tonight.”
In the first overtime, the two teams had their opportunities. However both defenses shined keeping their opponent off the scoreboard.
“Our main thing is talking. If we aren’t talking then they are going to score,” Person said. “We had good communication, we picked up cutters well, and we had pretty good ball pressure and that’s what helped us down the final stretch.”
With possession and the second overtime period expiring, the Cougars knew that a draw was out of the question.
“We were saying positive things and sticking together the entire time,” Hunter said. “We knew we had to get that win and we did. It was a team effort all the way around.”
Up next the the Whippets will look to snap their three-game losing skid at home against nonleague foe Springtide Chestnut Hill.
“When you get into games like this over and over again, it only makes you better,” Long said. “As the season continues these girls are going to have such a strong team unity and be comfortable playing in tight games like this. We take the positives from tonight and keep going.”
As for the Cougars they will put their four-game winning streak to the test on Tuesday when they hit the road to play Ches-Mont foe Avon Grove.
“We have to come out to practice tomorrow and focus on what we did wrong and correct it,” Person said. “We can’t dwell on this win, we have to look ahead and focus on who we play next.”
Downingtown East 8, Downingtown West 7, 2OT
Downingtown East 4 3 0 1 – 8
Downingtown West 2 5 0 0 – 7
Downingtown East goals: Hunter 2, Barretta 2, Person, Wurzel, Lawton, Enderlein.
Downingtown West goals: Bednarik 2, Cooper 2, Hoerman 2, McKinney.
Goalie saves: Robinson (DE) 9, Foster (DW) 9.
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