By BRAD SPAHR
email@example.comDOWNINGTOWN - You'd be hard-pressed to find absolutely anyone right now who would want to face the Unionville High School girls lacrosse team.
The Indians very well may be the most dangerous No. 17 seed in the history of the District 1 tournament. They've went toe-to-toe with almost all the heavyweights in the area already this spring, and have proved more than capable of giving any opponent all they can handle and more.
On Tuesday afternoon, 17th-seeded Unionville began its quest to show that seeding's aren't much more than a number this time of year as they rolled past No. 16 Downingtown West by a score of 16-11 in their opening-round District 1 playoff game at DiSerafino Stadium.
Unionville (13-5 overall) advances to play at No. 1 seed Garnet Valley on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the second round of the tournament.
The Indians narrowly lost to Garnet Valley, 16-12, when the two teams met earlier this spring in the season opener. Unionville's other four losses were all one-goal defeats, including setbacks to No. 3 Great Valley (10-9) and No. 9 W.C. Henderson (14-13 in overtime). In addition, the Indians have posted regular season victories over No. 4 Downingtown East and No. 7 Conestoga.
"We are the underdogs if you go by our seed,' said Unionville junior attacker Cassie Blair, who scored a season-high five goals in Tuesday's win. "All that matters, though, is that we know we have the potential to go really far in the playoffs.'
Unionville and Downingtown West finished in a tie for fourth place in the Ches-Mont League this season, and West won the regular season meeting by a score of 10-9 on April 14.
The rematch was pretty much all Unionville.
The Indians stormed out to a 5-1 lead less than 10 minutes into the contest, and really never looked back. The host Whippets pulled as close as three, 9-6, at halftime, but wouldn't get any closer. Unionville opened the second half on a 6-2 run to build a commanding 15-8 advantage with 10 minutes to play.
Four different players scored multiple goals for the Indians. Junior midfielder Katie Garvey (four goals), junior midfielder Molly Wentz (three goals) and senior attacker Rachel Hughes (two goals) all had strong games.
Blair, meanwhile, scored three of her five goals in the opening half.
"We wanted to come out strong and set the tone, and we did a great job playing with a lot of motivation,' said Blair. "We really worked well together as a team, and played off of each other's strengths. The way we fed the ball was great, and we were really unselfish out there.'
Another area Unionville excelled in was draw controls. Senior Jillian Zubillaga, who will play for Oregon next year, helped the Indians win 17-of-29 draws on what turned out to be a humid afternoon. Zubillaga won seven of them, and in the process set the school record for draws in a season. She now has 78 on the year.
"Jill is such a strong player,' said Unionville coach Wendy Landry. "She's been a rock for us this season.'
Downingtown West, who went a very impressive 7-4 in the ultra-competitive Ches-Mont League this season, saw its terrific season come to a close with the loss.
Melissa Vogelgesang led the Whippets with five goals. Maddie McGrail also played a great game with four goals.
After falling behind 7-3, West closed the first-half on a tear. Two goals from McGrail and another one from Vogelgesang got them right back in the game at halftime.
Unionville, however, proved to be the better team down the stretch on this day.
Their loss to Downingtown West earlier in the season served as motivation in the post-season opener.
"We didn't play well and we weren't intense when we played them the first time,' said Landry. "We had the lead in that game and blew it. That loss cost us a lot of things, including a good seed in districts. So it was wonderful to get a second chance today, and to atone for something we didn't do well the first time around.
"This team just needs to compete and believe in themselves and they'll be fine. That seeding is just a number next to our name — that's all. Now we have the opportunity to play a Garnet Valley team that we lost to in a close game and we've improved a lot since then.'
Downingtown West 11
Unionville 9 7— 16
Downingtown West 6 5-11
Unionville goals: Blair 5, Garvey 4, Wentz 3, Hughes 2, Welsh, Breeding.
Downingtown West goals: Vogelgesang 5, McGrail 4, DiGiorgio, Cooper.
Goalie saves: Mottola (U) 7; O'Donohoe (DW) 7.