DOWNINGTOWN - Wednesday's second round match-up in the District 1 Class AAA field hockey playoffs between No. 6 Downingtown West and No. 11 Garnet Valley figured to be a good one. Both teams were runners-up in their league, and both suffered tough, one-goal losses to Conestoga in recent weeks.
But Downingtown West came out firing on all cylinders in this one, while the Jaguars came out a little flat, as the host Whippets put their guests in an early hole and never looked back on their way to a 4-1 victory at Kottmeyer Stadium. "Back when we were freshmen, we lost in the first round, and we haven't had a lot of success in the post-season,' said Downingtown West's Makenna Colby. "It's really nice to be playing as well as we are to keep moving on.'
The Whippets now advance to the district quarterfinals on Friday, as they'll play host to surprising No. 14 seeds Hatboro-Horsham, who knocked off No. 3 Plymouth Whitemarsh in the second round.Downingtown West came out of the gate strong against Garnet Valley, forcing a penalty corner barely 30 seconds into the contest, then again just over a minute later. On the second, Savannah Cabaddu put the ball in play on the insert, then battled for position on the post, scoring on a rebound at the 27:21 mark to give her team a 1-0 lead.
The Whippets looked sharp all day, especially in the early part of the game, spreading the defense and getting plenty of open passes, while on the defensive side, they were virtually inpenatrable. Garnet Valley had trouble getting the ball past midfield the whole first half, and didn't make its first trip inside the circle until just over four minutes remained in the half.
"Nerves are always an issue when it comes to the playoffs,' said Garnet Valley coach Erin Fiddler. "A lot of these girls were around last year when we lost in the same round, and after West got off to that hot start, I think last year was crossing their minds and they were playing not to mess up instead of playing our game. It was much better in the second half, but just too late.'
West struck again just before the break. Awarded a corner, Cabbadu once again took the insert, and sent the ball in to Colby, who hit a rocket of a shot for the goal.
"We knew Garnet was a tough team and we'd have to come out strong,' said Colby. "We knew if we came out the way we did, we'd be able to keep that pace, and it would be tough for them to come back.'
The Whippets bumped the lead to 3-0 on a Cabaddu goal five minutes into the second period, with an assist going to Jaclyn Lutza. They then continued to play a stingy defense despite increased intensity from the Jaguars. Garnet Valley didn't get on the board until 13:45 remained, and Mikayla Jordan fed Molly Savage with a pass. Savage slipped it in to goal, cutting the lead to 3-1.
The Jags made a final push, getting three corners in the final 10 minutes, but couldn't get another one in the cage. Rounding out the scoring for Downingtown West was a goal from Taylor Johnson, with an assist to Cabaddu.
"We were doing a good job getting to the ball, and making passes, and playing Garnet Valley field hockey,' said Fiddler. "It's just unfortunate it took until the second half for it to happen.'
The loss brings the season to a close for the Jags.
"There are 10 seniors on this team, and we've really become like a family,' said Fiddler. "Everyone just loves playing with one another, and everyone is close off the field, too, which make this hurt all the more.'
The Whippets, meanwhile, seem to be peaking at the right time as they are now one of eight remaining teams left in the district tournament.
"We're playing really well right now,' said Cabaddu. "Our confidence is building, and wins like this give us great momentum heading into the next game.'A win by Downingtown West on Friday, and they'll clinch not only a berth into the district semifinals, but a state playoff spot as well."The feeling is indescribable,' said Colby of being a win away from states. "We just have to come back Friday and get it done.'
Downingtown West 4, Garnet Valley 1
Garnet Valley 0 1 -- 1
Downingtown West 2 2 -- 4
Garnet Valley goal: Savage.
Downingtown West goals: Cabaddu 2, Colby, Johnson.
Goalie saves: Valerio (GV) 7; Fabry (DW) 1; Leahy (DW) 1.