Westtown >> Coming into Wednesday’s Ches-Mont crossover girls’ soccer contest, host West Chester Rustin felt a particular need for a stellar performance against Downingtown West.
With the Golden Knights rated 14th in the PIAA District 1 4A power rankings entering Wednesday afternoon (16 teams make it to Districts), the hosts knew a good showing against No. 23 Downingtown West could help their post-season campaign.
“Coming out with a win today definitely would have accelerated us for the future [District 1 playoff] games,” said Rustin head coach Ashley Ainsworth.
While Rustin (5-2-1) didn’t earn a win – they tied the Whippets 1-1 Wednesday – the hosts did find the contest to be a valuable learning experience for the rest of their 2020 season.
“Downingtown West kind of showed us a different style of play than we’re used to playing against, they created some new territory that we have to work with as a team,” said Ainsworth.
“We hadn’t really come across a team before today that had played a really, really high defense, so they caught us in a lot of offsides. So I think that shows that our girls with a lot of speed have to figure out a way to get around a defense that was as high as it was today.
“I thought our girls did a really nice job keeping their heads up, they kept fighting, and I was really impressed with the grit they showed today.”
Youthful Downingtown West (4-2-1), starting five sophomores Wednesday (Hailey Coyle, Katelyn Klapac, Elaina Klapac, Ava Rightmire and Samantha Root) as well as using a freshman/sophomore goalie combination of Sage Baillargeon (who played the first half) and Kylie Seckinger (who was in the net for the 2nd half), went ahead 1-0 on a goal from junior midfielder Ava Minnier with 26:56 left in the first half.
Minnier scored off a high cross, then collided with Rustin junior goalie Chloe Mattie and was injured for the rest of the game.
“Ava is one of our top players, but I told our girls before the game, ‘We win as a unit, we lose as a unit,’” said Downingtown West head coach Katelyne Phillips. “So we had to stay together. Our players fought all the way to the end, this is one of the proudest games I’ve seen them play. They never gave up.”
Just five minutes later, Rustin tied the score at 1-1 on a goal from junior forward Mia Amen, adeptly assisted by freshman defender Jen Ely.
“Mia brings so much passion and intensity to the offense,” said Ainsworth. “She makes every opposing goalie nervous.”
The Golden Knights feature a solid attack, not only with Amen but also with senior attacking midfielder Emma Pelkowski, a Virginia Tech commit.
“Emma has great field vision, and is such a good communicator on the field, she makes quick plays,” noted Ainsworth.
Downingtown West’s defense kept the hosts off the scoreboard the rest of the way Wednesday, and the Whippets’ goalie combination of Baillargeon and Seckinger came up with tough saves time and again.
“I think our goalkeepers stepped up huge today,” said Phillips. “They made amazing breakaway saves to shut down Rustin’s one player up top [Amen] who just kept getting behind our back line.”
On the other side of the field, West Chester Rustin’s youthful back line of junior Holly Turner, freshman Jen Ely, junior Maegan Quinn and sophomore Hope Donnelly kept the Whippets’ attack at bay.
“Our back line has been very solid this season, has kept us in every game,” said Ainsworth. “They keep their poise and communicate very well.”
After two scoreless overtime periods, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
As of Wednesday evening, the Golden Knights were anticipating a first-round district playoff game Monday or Tuesday.
Ainsworth said, “I have so much confidence in this team; I think because they have great attitude and good sportsmanship and really work as a team, no matter what seed we’re going to play against [in Districts], they’ll absolutely take them on with confidence.”
For the youthful Downingtown West squad, the 2020 campaign has been one of growth and development.
“We’ve had a lot of players step up for us this season,” said Phillips. “Ava Minnier has been one of our top players, [senior midfielder and co-captain] Jess Harpel stepped up and played a center back position for us at the beginning of the season, and you’ll never meet a player with more of a work ethic than [junior midfielder and co-captain] Maddie Greco – she’s one of our best players and is a Penn State commit for lacrosse.
“We never knew [early this fall] if we were going to have a season, and we were fortunate to have the games that we did. Unfortunately, the [District 1] power rankings didn’t really go in our favor with our league. We were sitting on the [district playoff bubble] after last week, then after Monday’s game we dropped, and then as Suburban One played their games, we dropped some more.
“But our players can be happy with what they put out there today. And we can’t be upset, finishing the season with only two losses. We’re a young team – we’re excited to see what we can make [in the future] from here”
West Chester Rustin 1, Downingtown West 1
Downingtown West 1 0 – 1
West Chester Rustin 1 0 – 1
Downingtown West goals: Minnier.
West Chester Rustin goals: Amen.
Goalie saves: DW – Baillargeon 4, Seckinger 4; WCR – Mattie 4.
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