WEST GOSHEN - You won't find a more sensational high school boys soccer game than the beauty Great Valley and Conestoga played on Wednesday night.
This one had it all — high stakes, an outstanding atmosphere, and plenty of dramatic moments along the way.
It was so tense and competitive that 80 minutes of regulation wasn't enough to determine the outcome of their epic District 1 Class AAA semifinal at West Chester East High School's Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium. Neither were two separate 15-minute overtime periods.
When the dust finally settled, No. 1 seeded Great Valley kept its undefeated season in tact thanks to a thrilling victory over No. 20 Conestoga, winning by a score of 5-4 in penalty kicks after the match finished tied 2-2 following a total of 110 minutes of pressure-packed soccer.
Great Valley (21-0 overall) now advances to the district championship game, where they'll face fellow Ches-Mont League foe Downingtown West on Saturday night at 7 p.m. back at West Chester East.
The Patriots certainly earned their spot in the big game after downing an outstanding Conestoga squad, a team who is much stronger than their low seed in the district tournament would indicate.
In the penalty kick phase, it was tied 4-4 after each team had taken their five shots, turning it into a sudden-death situation from that point forward. After Conestoga's Jack Braun shot wide left of the goal on the Pioneers' sixth kick, Great Valley's Ryan Wilk walked up to take his attempt with the game on the line in front of a raucous standing-room only crowd.
Wilk proceeded to bury the shot into the center of the net, setting off a wild celebration.
"I was freaking out when I walked up to take the kick,' said Wilk. "I took a couple of deep breaths and did a shoulder roll to calm myself down. I knew I had a chance to win the game for us. My focus was to just try and put the ball on goal and not miss the net. I wanted to force their goalie to have to make a save, because I knew he was nervous too. So I just shot it right down the middle.
"That was the first penalty kick I ever took in high school. It was electric out there when I saw it go in. I just started screaming at the top of my lungs. Our team is unbelievable. This was the toughest game we've had all season, and to be 21-0 and going to the district championship game is just plain crazy.'
Conestoga twice led in the match, playing really tough soccer along the way.
Ches-Mont League champion Great Valley, however, never hung their heads en route to fighting back.
Conestoga scored just over a minute into the second half, with 38:43 remaining, to take a 2-1 lead on a goal by David Zipkin. The senior midfielder struck a terrific shot from just outside the box, with the laser finding its way into the top right corner of the net.
What should have been a huge swing in momentum for the Pioneers turned into anything but, though.
Just 47 seconds later, Great Valley tied the match 2-2 with 37:56 to play, as Patrick Murphy scored on a great header following a cross by Luis Benitez-Palermo into the box.
The game stayed deadlocked over the course of the final 37-plus minutes of regulation. In the first sudden-death 15-minute overtime session, Conestoga had a golden opportunity to win the game but Thijs Everts' shot hit the crossbar. Kyle Pettican's rebound attempt also had game-winner written all over it, but went wide left of the goal.
In the second 15-minute overtime, Great Valley nearly won it with 43 seconds left on the clock when Michael Sprinkel's header was tipped just over the crossbar by Conestoga goalie Will Smith (13 saves).
The match then went to penalty kicks, where each team sent out five players to take shots.
Conestoga's first four kickers — Harrison Moon, Everts, Nate Monsell and Mike McDugall — all made their kicks. Great Valley's first four — Jack Halliday, Kyle Hoops, Benitez-Palermo and Jake Miller — all converted as well.
Locked up at 4-4, Conestoga's Zipkin was then robbed on his attempt thanks to an outstanding save by Great Valley senior goalie Jon Fuydal.
That setup Great Valley with a chance to win on their next kick, but Colin Deitch's attempt to the bottom right corner was turned away by Smith and Conestoga.
That sent the penalty kicks into sudden-death. After Conestoga's kick by Braun trickled wide left of the goal, Great Valley had a chance to win again. They didn't miss this time around as Wilk converted.
"Ryan had asked to take our sixth kick if it went that far,' said Great Valley coach Dave Moffett. "So he was ready and waiting in the wings, preparing for it.
"This was an outstanding high school soccer match. It had all the elements. It was back-and-forth, constant momentum shifts, between two of the best teams around. I have a ton of respect for Conestoga. We got fortunate in penalty kicks to pull this out. I'm so proud of my guys.'
Conestoga built a 1-0 lead with 14:00 left in the first half on a goal by Monsell. The Patriots answered with 5:39 to go in the first on a goal by Nick Paynter.
On Saturday night, Great Valley will get a chance to move to 22-0 and win the district championship. A familiar face in Downingtown West waits as it will be an all Ches-Mont League final.
"That really speaks to the strength of our league,' said Moffett. "It should be a great game.'
Great Valley 2, Conestoga 2
Great Valley wins 5-4 on penalty kicks
Conestoga 1 1 0 0 — 2
Great Valley 1 1 0 0 — 2
Great Valley wins 5-4 on penalty kicks
Conestoga goals: Monsell, Zipkin.
Great Valley goals: Paynter, Murphy.
Goalie saves: Smith (C) 13; Fuydal (GV) 9.