KENNETT SQUARE—It probably shouldn't have been as close as it was.
Through 80 minutes of regulation, the Unionville High School girls soccer team had outshot its backyard rival Kennett, 35-6. But thanks to a combination of some strong play by Blue Demon keeper Hanhah Shiftlet and some shots simply off the mark, not a single ball found its way into the back of the net in regulation, and the game went to overtime, where the Indians finally won it 1-0 when Lindsey Cicchino scored the game-winner with 3:25 to play in the first extra period.
"It seemed at times like we were making more passes to their goalkeeper than we were to our own teammates,' said Unionville coach Joe Ratasiewicz. "We just weren't aggressive enough around the goalie. But I have to give that keeper credit - she held tough under pressure, and made some great saves.'
Cicchino, normally a defender, was called on to play forward. The goal was the first of her high school career.
"We talked about it at halftime,' said Cicchino. "We were making plenty of nice crosses, but then we'd have no one there in position to put it in. I just knew that I had to get there, and as soon as I saw where Anna (Juul) was, I knew right where I had to be. She made the cross, and I put it in.'
Though Cicchino is just a sophomore, Ratasiewicz knew her game well enough to know she could handle the pressure situation.
"She might be the best all-around player we have,' said Ratasiewicz. "Most importantly, I knew she's aggressive, and that's what we needed. We were aggressive in getting the ball upfield and near the goal, but needed that aggressiveness up close, and Lindsey gave us that tonight.'
The loss for the Blue Demons should do nothing to take away from the stellar performance put in by Shiftlet, who had turned away a whopping 26 shots on goal before the game-winner slipped through 86 minutes after the opening whistle.
"Hannah had a great game,' said Kennett coach Bob Varell. "She saved us multiple times over the course of the game. She's still only a junior, but has started all three years. I'm thrilled to have her back.'
Having a strong keeper to keep the Demons in play can only help in the development of its younger players. The Demons have three freshman starters, and while the kids can play, especially center striker Averie Florschotz, there is definitely still a bit of a learning curve to overcome.
"I think we still have a tendency to rely on our keeper and defense too much,' said Varell. "They just haven't gained the kind of confidence they need to have. I believe if we play like we did today, we can play with anyone. The younger players just have to start to believe that.'
The Indians, meanwhile, can relish the win over its rival.
"We were all getting so frustrated,' said Cicchino. "It was the same last year. She's a strong goalkeeper, but I was glad we finally got a goal. It's always good to get a win over Kennett. And it feels great to get my first goal to do it.'
Maybe it's that simple familiarity that these games are always close.
"The players all know each other, and it's been like this the last three years,' said Ratasiewicz. "Kennett is a scrappy team, and they are well-coached. But it was really nice to get to play under the lights at Kennett. It's always been a night game at our place, and a day game here, so this was a nice change.'
Unionville 1, Kennett 0 (OT)
Unionville 0 0 1 —1
Kennett 0 0 0 --0
Unionville goal: Cicchino.
Goalie saves: Weber (U) 2; Shiftlet (K) 26.