By MATTHEW De GEORGE
EXETER — The mantra from the Great Valley bench was "first five.'
As the Patriots embarked on their first-round PIAA Tournament game Wednesday afternoon at Exeter High School, they knew the first five minutes of the contest would go a long way in determining their survival against District 3 champion Manheim Township.
After three goals in that first five-minute spurt and 11 in a first-half featuring one-way traffic, the Patriots were able to sail to an 18-6 win over the Blue Streaks.
Doing most of the damage early (and late, as well) was Brittany Edwards, who scored seven times, four in the first half and twice in the game's first 90 second off feeds from Olivia Muscella in one of their bread-and-butter plays from behind the net.
"It gives us a lot of momentum,' Edwards said. "We always think that the first five minutes are the most important of both halves so we have come out strong. And even if we get up, we try to play like it's 0-0.'
Muscella supplemented her pair of early assists with two goals in the final 4:30 of the first half, sending the teams into halftime with a running clock at 11-1.
From there, though they never looked back, the Patriots remained wary of Manheim's potential.
"When we're up that much, we still know that they can easily come back,' Muscella said. "We know that we still need to play how we started playing because we know that it can go away very quickly.'
It wasn't just an ability to score, though. The Patriots were suffocating, not allowing Manheim out of its own end and generating offense from turnovers, like Jessie Boyle's first goal of five on the game early in the first half and Edwards' fifth of the day, a turnover on a clear attempt that Edwards whipped into the empty net from distance early in the second half.
When they needed the saves from freshman goalie Mia Tornetta, they got them. She made five stops in the first half, allowing just one goal in the opening 25 minutes and setting her team up for a comfortable second stanza.
The win means the roll keeps going for District 1's fourth-placed team, even in what could've been a daunting environment against a strong team that was a favorite on paper.
Defying expectations this season, though, isn't something Great Valley has had much problem with.
"It feels good,' Edwards said. "We have a young team, and no one saw us anywhere near here, and we proved them wrong. So it feels good.'
Great Valley 18, Manheim Township 6
Great Valley 11 7 — 18
Manheim Township 1 5 — 6Great Valley goals: Edwards 7, Boyle 5, Aker, Hughes, Muscella 2, Smith, Verrechia.
Manheim Township goals: Svetec 2, Bernhardt 2, Mann, Elias.
Goalie Saves: Tornetta (GV) 5; Curtis (MT) 6.