Conestoga tops W.C. Henderson in district field hockey

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Conestoga's Kate Billings and Kiley Allen embrace goalie Chloe Johnson. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

The rain fell hard and the ball rolled slowly on Wednesday at Conestoga's Teamer Field, but that didn't bother the Pioneers.

Their coach, Megan Smyth, said she thought her Conestoga field hockey players were actually enjoying playing in a steady downpour.

A 2-0 win against West Chester Henderson, last year's district champion, made the afternoon even more enjoyable for them.

Eighth-seeded Conestoga ousted the ninth-seeded Warriors in the second round of the District 1 Class AAA playoffs as a strong first half propelled the Pioneers to the quarterfinals.

"The way our girls mentally prepared for this game really benefited them for the whole 60 minutes," Smyth said. "We talked about playing for the whole 60 minutes, and they really did that."

The game was scoreless until 15 minutes into the first half, when freshman forward Emma McGillis took advantage of a penalty corner and whacked the ball into the net to give her team an early 1-0 advantage. Junior midfielder Casey Allen picked up the assist.

Minutes later, Allen recorded another assist after a penalty corner again led to a Conestoga goal. Senior midfielder Nicole Bodo shot the ball past a crowd near the net and gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.

"My team is really special," Allen said. "We got really pumped for this game and we were ready. We wanted to win, and we came out strong."

But the Warriors didn't go down easily. They came out of halftime looking more prepared and aggressive, possessing the ball more and creating increased opportunities during the final 30 minutes.

"We weren't as strategic as we have been," Henderson coach Jen O'Donnell said. "I don't know if that's youth or nerves, but the kids played hard. You can't ask for more than that at this point."

Senior goalkeeper Chloe Johnson made a few big saves and the Conestoga defense did not allow Henderson to take advantage of its second-half opportunities.

Last year, the Pioneers fell one win short of the semifinals. On Friday, Conestoga will play at top-seeded Unionville - a team the Pioneers lost to earlier this season, on a similarly rainy afternoon, after blowing a first-half lead.

Conestoga hasn't forgotten about that loss.

"We're going to keep that in mind and use it to light the fire," Bodo said.

West Chester Henderson 0 0 - 0

Conestoga 2 0 - 2

Goals: C-Emma McGillis, Nicole Bodo

Saves: WCH-Rachel Bliss 10; C-Chloe Johnson 5