By BILL RUDICK
AMBLER — So, what's a little pneumonia?Three days ago, West Chester Henderson goalie Emily Finn had to miss the district semifinal against Owen J. Roberts as she battled a bout of pneumonia. Despite not even being cleared to practice until Fridayy, Finn took her customary spot guarding the cage in the District 1 Class AAA championship against Central Bucks South.All the senior did from there was notch 19 saves, weathering a furious second-half push from No. 2 Central Bucks South to preserve top-seeded Henderson's 1-0 shutout victory for their first district title.
"Once I got on the field, I felt great,' said Finn. "I wasn't going to miss this. It was a great game, I saw the ball really well all day, and the defense was great. It was really a great game for both teams. We just happened to come out on top.'
As Henderson likes to put it, she was Finn-tastic.
"She came to practice yesterday (Friday) all smiles and said ' I'm good,'' said Henderson coach Jen O'Donnell. "It's always sunny in Emily world, so she had to have been really sick to be out. She was incredible today.'
Throughout the scoreless first half, the action kept teetering back and forth, with one team controlling the action for six or seven minutes, then back to the other side. But despite the teams combining for 15 penalty corners in the first 30 minutes, no one was finding the back of the cage.
The Warriors finally broke the deadlock with 10 minutes to play. Katie O'Donnell sent the ball into the circle, where it bounced around like a pinball. Susannah Pitt finally got control of one of the deflections and slipped it in for the score.
"It was crazy in there,' said Pitt. "Katie sent it in, and then it just starting ricocheting all over. I just finally got it and got it in. After that, the defense really kept its cool, and Emily was amazing.'
"The whole game was like a pinball machine,' said O'Donnell. "There was so much adrenaline. CB South can get very frustrating. They are a really skilled team. There were some great defensive stands to help us get out alive.'
Trailing by a goal, the Titans were not about to go silently into the autumn evening. Not by a longshot. Putting serious pressure on inside the circle, the Titans forced 14 corners in the second half, including a pair in the game's final minute, and outshot Henderson 14-2 in the second half. But thanks to Finn and her fellow defenders, nothing was getting in.
"All those corners made things kind of intense,' said Finn. "But knowing I had Carly (Askinas) and Katie and Brianna (Bolon) and really my whole team helping out made it a bit easier.'
"We knew that's the kind of game they like to play,' added Jen O'Donnell. "We knew they liked to force a lot of corners and try to play deflections. We had a bit of a strategy for that, and I guess you have to say it worked. You keep getting that kind of pressure, all it takes is a tip. But someone had to win. Why not us? '
The strategy worked well enough that the undefeated (21-0) Warriors can say something no other field hockey team in school history can say — they are the District 1 champs.
"I hate to say words like surreal or numb, but that's the way it feels,' said Jen O'Donnell. "We're just going to have to take some time and let it sink in. These girls have gotten better every game this year. They do everything we ask of them, taking what we tell them and getting results. I couldn't be more proud.'
Henderson will open its PIAA campaign on Tuesday against Cumberland Valley, the fourth-place team from District 3, at a site and time to be determined.
"Come Tuesday, our record is 0-0,' said O'Donnell. "Since the beginning of the season, we've really just taken things one game at a time. That approach has served us well all year. No reason to stop now.'
W.C. Henderson 1, Central Bucks South 0
Central Bucks South 0 0--0
W.C. Henderson 0 1--1W.C. Henderson goal: Pitt.
Goalie saves: Zesotarski (CBS) 3; Finn (WCH) 19.