By BRYAN DAVIS
DOWNINGTOWN -- It is every coach’s wish that a player take what they work on in practice and translate it to the playing field. For West Chester Henderson’s Natalie Deacon, her practice form was well replicated as her penalty kick midway through the second half gave the Warriors a 2-1 Ches-Mont League National Division victory over Downingtown East on a gorgeous, clear Monday evening at DiSerafino Stadium.
“One day last week, Mary (Martin) and I spent 20 minutes after practice working on penalty kicks, so to get an opportunity and sink it like that it felt awesome,” Deacon said.
The hard-fought win puts Henderson at 2-0 in the National and 4-1 overall. The Cougars suffered their first loss of the season and slipped to 1-1 and 2-1.
Henderson didn’t get a boatload of chances, but cashed in on two of the best ones they had in the game. With the score tied at 1-1, a foul gave Henderson a free kick, but Kelly Hicks’ effort was well-saved by a diving Alex Srolis. Moments later, freshman Addy Zandi was dragged down in the penalty area to set up Deacon.
She calmly stepped up and drilled a shot high to the right of Srolis’ outstretched fingers to put the visitors ahead with 21:29 left.
Henderson’s defense stepped to the fore as they kept the Cougars at bay, limiting the chances East had and coming up with timley clearances. With the knowledge of East having scored late goals against them last season, the Warriors’ senior back line of Deacon, Hicks, Anna Trimble and Joanne Vanderheyden stayed strong in front of freshman goalie Jenna Maratea.
“It kind of felt like “Miracle on Ice” the last 10 minutes,” said Deacon. “But we were able to stay composed and we worked on our shifting well and we pulled through, so it was a nice win. It’s great playing with three of my senior friends, but Jenna’s been great for us, she stayed sharp for us. She’s a freshman at heart, but she’s a senior in goal.
“They kept us from the championship last year, so revenge was on our minds. We came out with energy and heart.”
Maratea made three saves and showed good range and command of her area, coming quickly off her line to deal with any ball that got over the top of her defense.
East did get some dangerous looks coming out of the halftime break, Nicole Caston coming closest to scoring when she turned past a defender and gained a yard of space, but her effort clanged off the crossbar.
“We were trying to get behind them; we had some success getting behind them in the first half,” said East coach Craig Reed. “But Henderson always fights hard its never an easy game either at our place or at theirs.”
Henderson jumped on top a little over three minutes into the game on its first real chance. Hicks’ corner kick went over the heads of a couple of players and dropped to an unmarked Mary Martin about 10 yards from goal. She tucked a shot undereanth Srolis into the left corner for the early advantage.
“I just saw it and I thought I really want this, we need to get up early and we did,” said Martin.
An early goal still means there is lot of soccer left, a fact that was not lost on Henderson coach Tom Gotthold.
“Soccer-wise, an early goal doesn’t mean much, because its early, There is still a lot of time to come back,” said Gotthold. “But for the girls, it meant a lot. It gave them the confidence that they can do it.”
The lead lasted until until just before 12 minutes to go before the break, when Nicole Barretta won a battle for a loose ball and popped a header over Maratea for the equalizer.
The Warriors may have stamped themselves as a team to look out for in the National Division race.
“The girls did a very good job,” said Gotthold. “They played hard, both teams did. Everybody who played, and on the bench, was important.”
West Chester Henderson 2, Downingtown East 1
W.C. Henderson 1 1--2
Downingtown East 1 0--1
W.C. Henderson goals: Martin, Deacon.
Downingtown East goal: Barretta.
Goalie saves: Maratea (WCH) 3; Srolis (DE) 2.