By BILL RUDICK
email@example.comWESTTOWN — For the third time in school history -- and first since 1994 -- the West Chester Henderson Henderson field hockey will be playing for a district field hockey title.
Katie O'Donnell gscored the game-winner with seven minutes, four seconds left to to give the top-seeded Warriors a 2-1 victory over No. 4 Owen J. Roberts in the District 1 Class AAA semifinals at West Chester Rustin High School.
The win sets up a rare 1 vs. 2 showdown for the chmpionship as second-seeded Central Bucks South advanced to Saturday's championship, time and site to be determined, with a 2-0 victory over Hatboro-Horsham."We were all just talking about how it feels kind of weird to be in district finals,' said O'Donnell. "We've never gone this far in the playoffs, so we don't know how to interpret it just yet. We're all just excited for the chance to play for a district championship.'
O'Donnell's heroics came shortly after one of Henderson's three penalty corners in a three-minute span late in the game, taking a ball near the top of the circle and rifling a shot past Owen J. goalie Liz Tamburro for the difference maker.
"Our front line was putting a lot of pressure on the their end towards the cage,' said O'Donnell. "I just tried to get a shot off. But that goal was the result of great pressure from the whole front line.'
The other times Henderson made a district finals appearance came back in the early 90s -- 1990 and 1994.
"It is a bit surreal to think we're playing for a district title,' said coach Jen O'Donnell. "I'm so proud of these kids and the way they keep rising to the occasion and the challenge. Every one on this team is doing what they need to be doing. We always say that if everyone just does their job, the rest will take care of itself. They are doing their jobs and more.'
Henderson took charge in the early going, forcing the game's first corner a little over three minutes in, but it was the Wildcats who got on the scoreboard first when Madelyn Mullen slipped one past Henderson goalie Rachel Bliss for the icebreaker.
"I thought they came out strong for the first two minutes, then we took over for the next six or so,' said Wildcats coach Clarence Jannelle. "The rest of the game was pretty even. Both teams played really well, and (Katie) O'Donnell was huge for them.'
It was the first-ever varsity start for Bliss, taking over in the cage for Emily Finn, who is out with an illness.
"It was kind of scary at first, especially because it's a playoff game,' said Bliss. "But once the game got going, I settled in, and knew my teammates would have my back.'
After the initial score, Bliss stopped both shots to come her way, Carly Askinas made a beautfiful defensive save on another, and Henderson didn't allow a shot on goal in the second half.
"The defense was fantastic today,' said coach O'Donnell. "We said before the game that Emily has been picking us up and saving our butts all year. It was time for us to step it up and take care of her. And Rachel just did a tremendous job coming in for us at goalie.'
The Warriors notched the equalizer just about the midway in the half. Olivia Schwartz sent a ball towards the cage, drawing Mouncy out of the cage. Susannah Pitts grabbed the ball,got behind a prone Ali Mouncy in goal, slipped past another defender and into the back of the cage.
Henderson started taking over in the second half, forcing seven corners to the Widlcats' two, outshooting them, 7-0. But Tamburro was solid in goal, and Henderson just couldn't find the back of the cage for much of the half until O'Donnell conjured up some late magic.
"Their left mid (Haley Weaver) was killing us early,' said Janelle. "We made the right adjustments on her, but we never figured out how to adjust to O'Donnell's air dribbling. She does such a great job in small space, and eventually she got one in.'
West Chester Henderson 2
Owen J. Roberts 1
Owen J. Roberts 1 0--1
West Chester Henderson 1 1--2Owen J. Roberts goal: Mullen.
West Chester Henderson goals: Pitts, O'Donnell.Goalie Saves: Mouncy (OJR) 5; Tamburro (OJR) 1. Bliss (WCH) 2.