Downingtown >> Unionville’s tough team defense played a key role in the Longhorns’ 13-8 win against high-scoring Downingtown West Tuesday at DiSerafino Stadium.
The speedy Whippets, whose high-octane offense came into the Ches-Mont girls’ lacrosse contest averaging 14 goals per game, were held to just four goals in the first 47 minutes of play Tuesday.
The Longhorns held a 12-4 lead with a little over 3 minutes left in Tuesday’s contest before a flurry of late D-West scores in the final three minutes.
“Downingtown West is a really good team and has a lot of offensive threats, so it was really exciting for us to play such good team defense today and shut them down,” said Unionville’s first-year head coach Tara Brown. “I think each game our defense has gotten a little better – every game we play a man-to-man with helping defense, and we had a lot of communication today.”
Brown credited the defensive leadership of juniors Liza Cawley and Alexis Brown.
“I think Liza came up really big on the slide help when challenges were happening, and Alexis was a big helper on the challenges. Liza and Alexis are leaders in our defense, our communicators, and they really dictated the game today and helped our middies fit right in [with the defense].”
With Tuesday’s victory, the Longhorns’ record improves to 15-1 – their lone loss was an 11-8 defeat to Bishop Shanahan April 27. Since then, Unionville has won six in a row, and is now fifth in the PIAA District 1 3A girls’ lacrosse rankings, one spots ahead of Downingtown West (13-3).
Asked if this was the Longhorns’ best defensive effort of the season, Brown responded, “We were pretty good defensively against Notre Dame (a 10-8 win April 24], but this game was probably our best full-unit defense, with the middies filling in and being a big part of it.”
Unionville sophomore Anna Brown, who scored three goals and handled the draw controls adeptly said, “Our defense really played together well today, we were even able to stop them on the 1v1s. They were able to get past us a few times, but our communication [on defense] was on-point and we really stepped it up today.”
The first half Tuesday was particularly low-scoring for both sides, with the Longhorns holding a 4-2 lead at the break. Unionville held D-West scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the game, while building a 3-0 lead on a couple of goals by senior Lily Dietrich, and a goal from senior Shannon Garvey (assisted by Dietrich). Dietrich finished with five goals Tuesday. Dietrich, senior Riley Glackin and Anna Brown have led Unionville’s attack this season.
“What’s nice about them is that they all work together, and whoever has the [capacity] to have success in a particular game, that’s who they give it to,” said Tara Brown. “It’s really a team effort to create our offensive opportunities.”
Downingtown West sophomore Lainey Straub, who has been a solid scorer for the Whippets as of late, put the hosts on the scoreboard with 10:25 to play before halftime, cutting Unionville’s lead to 3-1.
Nine seconds later, Anna Brown won a draw control, carried the ball downfield and fired a shot into the cage to give the Longhorns a 4-1 lead. Brown came into Tuesday’s contest with 55 draw controls against Ches-Mont opponents this season.
“Anna’s very dominant on the draw and did well today,” noted Tara Brown.
“We’ve been able to communicate very well on the draw,” said Anna Brown. “Even if I don’t get it, we have people on the draw circle that will step up and grab the ball.”
Just 15 seconds after Anna Brown’s goal, D-West senior midfielder Aliza Thir scored after a long run to cut the visitors’ lead to 4-2, and the score remained the same for the next 10 minutes, until the halftime break.
In the second half, the scoring opened up a little. Just three minutes into the second half, Unionville junior Maddie Passarello scored in a crowd in front of the net to make it 5-2, then two minutes later Straub tallied her second goal for D-West.
For the next 12 minutes, Unionville held the Whippets scoreless, while building a 9-3 lead, getting goals from Garvey (her second of the game), Dietrich, junior Kenzie Malloy and Glackin.
Downingtown West junior midfielder Maddie Greco, who scored four goals against Downingtown East on May 4 then tallied four more vs. Kennett two days later, broke the Whippets’ 12-minute scoring drought to make it 9-4 with 7:48 to play.
Unionville held D-West scoreless for the next 4 ½ minutes, getting two more goals from Dietrich in that stretch and a score from Anna Brown to take a 12-4 lead with 3:45 left.
“Downingtown West is one the best teams we’ve played so far this season,” said Anna Brown. “We really stepped it up today.”
In the final three minutes, Downingtown West tallied four quick goals, getting scores from junior midfielder Lauren Tinson, Thir, and two from Greco. In a span of eight seconds, Greco scored twice, her second goal coming when she came up with a loose ball, made a sizable run and fired home a shot with 18.2 seconds left. Greco finished with a hat trick, while Thir and Straub each tallied two goals for the hosts.
NOTES: Unionville has two games left in the regular season – Downingtown East on Thursday and Garnet Valley on Friday, with District 1 seeding to be held Saturday. The Longhorns have one Ches-Mont League loss, as does Bishop Shanahan (a 14-8 defeat to Downingtown West April 15), but the Eagles have the edge in head-to-head play with their 11-8 win against Unionville April 27.
Unionville 13, Downingtown West 8
Unionville 4 9 – 13
Downingtown West 2 6 – 8
Unionville goals: Dietrich 5, Anna Brown 3, Garvey 2, Passarello, Malloy, Glackin.
Downingtown West goals: Greco 3, Thir 2, Straub 2, Tinson.
Goalie saves: UN – M. Robitzer 5; DW – Strauss 8.