WEST GOSHEN - For nearly two weeks, the Unionville High School boys soccer team simply hasn't been able to buy a goal. It had been a frustrating stretch for the squad and head coach Rich Garber, as it had almost come to the point where it seemed as if a brick wall had been blocking the goal.
The Indians came into their regular season finale against host West Chester East in the midst of a scoring drought that had reached 280 minutes. They had played well in that stretch of three straight games without scoring too, somehow going 0-1-2 in that time thanks to some great defensive play.
On Thursday night, Garber and the Indians had to be thinking here we go again as they were locked in a scoreless battle with West Chester East well into the second half.
But on a rainy night at Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium, that long lost goal finally came for Unionville and it proved to be the difference as they posted a 1-0 victory over the Vikings in Ches-Mont League action.
Standout senior midfielder James Crowley scored the lone goal of the match, with 17:14 remaining in regulation, helping the Indians close out the regular season on a high note as they enter the District 1 Class AAA playoffs next week.
"We had a mix in front of the net five minutes into the game, and it was a miracle that we didn't score on that, and I'm thinking what is it going to take for us to get a goal,' said a relieved Garber afterwards. "We have been playing well enough to win in each of our last three games, but we just haven't been able to score. I don't know if it's been a lack of focus when we get down there, or just a matter of trying to be too cute with the ball.
"Our defense has been outstanding through this all. We've given up just two goals in our last eight games now. So confidence wise this is a relief for the whole team. We were starting to get a little sick of ties and overtime.'
Unionville closed its regular season with a very impressive 10-4-4 overall record. They also locked up third place in the American Division with an 8-2-3 mark, behind only undefeated Great Valley and second place West Chester Rustin.
West Chester East, meanwhile, ended the regular season with a 6-6-1 in league play, good for third place in the National Division.
Crowley put Unionville ahead just over midway through the second half, halting the Indians' goal drought that had crawled to over 340 minutes before his game-winner.
The score came off a corner kick in which Crowley actually took the kick. He sent a great ball into the box, a hard-hit laser along the ground that bounced around in front of the net until it finally went in untouched past East goalie Chris Gleason (seven saves).
"I was just trying to hit the ball low and to the near post and see what kind of deflection we could get,' said Crowley. "We practice that play a lot, and Jeff Stautberg let the ball go thru his legs like he's supposed to, and it threw them off and thankfully ended up going into the net.
"We've really been playing well lately, but we just haven't been able to score. It wasn't anyone's specific fault or anything like that -- the ball just hasn't gone in for us.'
West Chester East coach Tom Creighton missed Thursday's game as he was serving a one-game suspension for defending a red-card one of his senior players received during this past Tuesday's game.
The Vikings fought hard, but were unable to get one past Unionville goalie Henry Shafer, who had a great game in goal with eight saves on his way to posting another shutout.
Unionville's defense, led by Jason Smiddy and Brian Cortese, was also exceptional once again on this night.
Both Unionville and West Chester East are both hoping to earn spot's in the district tournament, which gets underway next week.
Unionville knows if they can get hot offensively they are capable of causing some major damage in the postseason. The Indians have played well against many of the top teams in the area already this season, including unbeaten Great Valley.
"I'm thinking we'll probably be seeded in the teens,' said Garber. "If we play like we did against Great Valley and Conestoga — we can be tough.'
Either way, the Indians will enter the playoffs feeling pretty good after beating the Vikings.
"Overall we played outstanding tonight,' said Crowley. "To come out and get a win in our last game of the regular season is huge. We have a chance to be really dangerous in the playoffs. When we show up and play our game we are one of the better teams in the area.'
Unionville 1, W.C. East 0
Unionville 0 1 — 1
W.C. East 0 0 — 0
Unionville goal: Crowley.
Goalie saves: Shafer (U) 8; Gleason (WCE) 7.