|Staff photo by Tom Kelly IV/ Downingtown West's Jen Wittick scores the game-winning goal with 15 seconds left in Wednesday's game against W.C. Henderson.|
By BRYAN DAVIS
WEST CHESTER -- Job number one for West Chester Henderson coming into Wednesday’s Ches-Mont League National Division showdown with Downingtown West was to mark Whippets leading scorer Jen Wittick, to frustrate her and hold her off the scoreboard.
For 79 minutes and 45 seconds the plan worked to perfection, but one touch is all you need to turn a night’s worth of planning into a disappointing, bitter pill to swallow.
With fog settling in over J. Oscar Dicks Stadium and overtime looming like a gloomy ghost, Wittick scored with 15.3 seconds left to give Downingtown West a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Warriors on a warm, muggy evening. The win kept West perfect in the division at 9-0, while Henderson fell to 6-2, dropping its second straight league game after losing to West Chester East on Saturday.
"This was a typical Ches-Mont game, especially with Henderson," said Downingtown West coach Wes Davis. "In beteween the 18, You have to take care of your 10 yards in front of you. Both teams had chances, it was just a matter of which would take advantage of its opportuinty.
"They know that anything can happen with time on the clock. We got the corner, and with the ball bouncing, you want it to find Jen."
Despite the efforts of Henderson to stymie her, and a yellow card in the first half, Davis belived that his senior would come through.
"She stays focused no matter what. It was a physical game all around and she held her own the best she could," added Davis.
The buildup started moments earlier, when Wittick’s attempted bicycle kick was parried away by freshman goalie Jenna Maratea and the followup shot was knocked out for a corner kick.
The ensuing corner was cleared, but Amanda Treadway sent the ball back in from about 40 yards out. Wittick stopped the ball, turned and fired a shot that lofted over the hands of Maratea and into the top right corner of the net to break the deadlock and send the West bench into hysterics.
"Amanda Treadway shot it and I intercepted it," said Wittick. "It bounced off and I just turned and shot it and we’re happy it went in. Henderson is a great team and we didn’t want to go to overtime because you just never know. They were doubling me all night and I just had to keep playing."
For Henderson, the Warriors accomplished everything they wanted except scoring the goal that was needed.
"It was a good team effort," said coach Tom Gotthold. "I think we frustrated Downingtown West. We gave up little offense to help back more on defense. We were close to going to overtime, and you just never know, but we couldn’t clear the ball and Jen Wittick is a great player."
Wittick had one of the few clear-cut chances in the opening 40 minutes as her thumping header off a corner nestled into Maratea’s hands.
The half was mostly a territorial battle with neither team drawing a decided edge, West outshot the Warriors, 5-4, but in truth, both goalies were not really tested all that much.
The second half was almost a carbon copy with a little more tension thrown in. Henderson came close as Addy Zandi and Anna Trimble had efforts that just skipped wide.
An anxious moment for the Whippets came late in the half as Kelly Hicks’ long-range effort hung in the air as it lofted on goal. Goalie Annie Messner caught the ball right on her line.
"You always hold you breathe on those," said Davis. "But Annie is good when she has a chance to set her feet, she doesn’t usually make a mistake."
Henderson now has to regroup, but a loss like this can sometimes be a springboard to better times ahead, and with the district playoffs upcoming, we could be talking about this game as a turning point.
"I’m proud of the way we played defensively," said Henderson co-captain Natalie Deacon. "I think we played our best game of the season, so for me, as much as it was a heartbreak, I think this could be a turning point going into districts.""You have to grow from a loss. You learn more from a loss than from a win," said Gotthold. "I’m very proud of our team, this was a great game, a fun game to watch."