By BILL RUDICK
WEST GOSHEN — As cold as West Chester Henderson started, they warmed up to balzing by the finish of its PIAA Class AAA field hockey first-round playoff game against Cumberland Valley at West Chester East's Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium on Tuesday.With less than 30 seconds left on the clock, Katie O'Donnell scored the game-winner in the Warriors' 2-1 victory over the Eagles. The unbeaten Warriors (22-0) advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday to play the foorth-place team from District 1, Hatboro-Horsham, a 2-0 winner over District 12 champion Cardinal O'Hara on Tuesday, at a site and time to be determined.
"I'm really happy we avoided overtime,' said O'Donnell. "It took us way too long to turn it on today. We're lucky we pulled it off.'
Tied at one with time running out in regulation, Henderson was awarded a penalty corner. Madison Lampe put the ball in play on the insert, sending it to O'Donnell at the top of the circle. After air dribbling over a CV defender, O'Donnell, known for her rocket shot, lifted one that arched over Eagles goalie Kelly Weaver and settled softly into the back netting of the cage. Weaver registered 12 saves on the afternoon.
"We'd been taking some hard, straight and low shots for most of the game,' said O'Donnell. "But (Weaver) is a really talented goalie and we weren't getting through. So I switched things up and it worked out in our favor.'
The day didn't get off to the best of starts for the Warriors. For the better part of the first 10 minutes, the game was mostly spent with Cumberland Valley putting pressure on inside the circle. Henderson, it seemed, just could not get going.
"I think we were just too tentative in the early part of the game,' said Henderson coach Jen O'Donnell. "Maybe it was the nerves of being in a state game, I don't know. But we just didn't play our game for a lot of the first half.'
Regardless, the Warriors did just enough to keep Cumberland Valley off the scoreboard, and the game went to the break scoreless.
While Henderson stepped up the pace in the second half, it was the Eagles that got on the board first. Having drawn Henderson goalie Emily Finn out of the cage, Cumberland Valley forward Taylor Nesmith slipped a shot behind her to break the deadlock.
"Hopefully we can get out to a stronger start Saturday,' said O'Donnell. "It's never easy to play from behind. But fortunately things just started clicking for us and we got the win.'
With just over seven minutes to play, O'Donnell brought the ball up the right side of the circle, and, just before reaching the endline, unleashed a hard cross in front of Weaver. Sophomore forward Sammi Long, celebrating her birthday Tuesday, gave herself a little gift, grabbing the pass and depositing the equalizer.
"I just came upfield with my stick down and hoping for a flat ball,' said Long. "I got it and put it in.'
Long, and fellow forward Susannah Pitt, have starred for the Warriors all postseason. Pitt was leading the team in scoring in the playoffs, and Long coming up big Tuesday.
"Between Sammi and Suze, we've got a nice tag team going at forward,' said coach O'Donnell. "They work really well together.'
From that point through O'Donnell's heroics, the Warriors played like the unbeaten team they are, neutralizing the Eagles, and continuing to apply the pressure until the gamewinner finally came.
"Time was starting to run out on us,' said Long. "So that goal was a huge deal. I, for one, wasn't ready for the season to end and have this be my last game with Katie O'Donnell.'
Once again, Finn was beyond solid in the goal, registering 14 saves. Her work in the first half was especially important in keeping Henderson in the game as it struggled to find its offensive footing.
"The first half was a bit frustrating because I knew we were better than that,' said coach O'Donnell. "But we started to give that second, third and fourth effort in the second half. It only takes one to stick to get you going. In states, it's so much a mental game. Your skills are what they are. You just have to believe in yourself.'
W.C. Henderson 2, Cumberland Valley 1
Cumberland Valley 0 1 —1
W.C. Henderson 0 2 --2Cumberland Valley goal: Nesmith.
W.C. Henderson goals: Long, O'Donnell.
Goalie Saves: Weaver (CV) 12, Finn (WCH) 14.