Undefeated Unionville beats Avon Grove 2-1
By Richard L. Gaw
To overhear the post-game remarks of head coach Rich Garber to his team on Oct. 16, one would conclude that the Unionville soccer team had just gone down to defeat, rather than just wrap up a 2-1 victory over Avon Grove on their way to an undefeated season.
And yet, were it not for some stellar stops by Indian goalie Henry Shafer in the last, furious minutes of the match, Garber's words would have carried even more weight. Sensing the clock ticking downward and down by only a goal, Avon Grove unleashed an offensive assault on Shafer, who tuned back kick after kick. His performance seemed to ignite a sluggish Unionville squad, who seemed to have given off the perception of having come into the match taking a sub-.500 Avon Grove squad lightly.
“It was one of those nights where we played flat and on our heels a little bit, and Avon Grove came at it and played hard,” Garber said. “Hopefully, we'll get a little better and try to improve on the mistakes we made tonight.”
Throughout the first 15 minutes of the match, it was apparent that Dave Whitcraft's Red Devil squad of underdogs were not intimidated by their undefeated foe. On the strength of header stops and the goalkeeping of Ben Eisenhardt, Avon Grove held Unionville in check until a personal foul was called on Logan Jirak with 24:49 left in the first half, which led to a penalty kick by Tim Yarosh past a diving Eisenhardt for the game's first goal.
Despite surrendering Unionville's second goal of the match – a short kick by Peter Ferraro at the 37:07 mark of the second half – Eisenhardt nearly matched Shafer save for save on the night, highlighted by his leaving the goal to stop a goal attempt by Yarosh with 21:00 left in the match.
While the Unionville match may have served as a debut for the Sophomore Eisenhardt, it was just another day at the office for Shafer, who hadn't surrendered a goal since a 3-2 victory over Great Valley on Sept. 24. That streak snapped, however, when with 12:47 left, Avon Grove's Ethan Greene booted a kick past Shafer from 15 feet out to bring Avon Grove to within a goal. Yet with the clock running down and a pesky Avon Grove squad valiantly attempting to tie the score, Shafer proved why he is among the best goal tenders in PIAA District 1 soccer.
“He's been stellar all year,” Garber said of Shafer. “We go through him. He's our leader.”
As Garber begins to prepare his team – who concluded a16-0-2 regular season on Oct. 17 with a 2-1 victory over Council Rock South – for the playoffs, he said the key to post-season success will be found in how players respond to game situations.
“They've found ways to get things accomplished this year, and they haven't lost yet,” he said. “They've found ways to win. Sometimes they're ugly and sometimes they're pretty. Tonight was not one of the pretty ones.”
Unionville will receive a first-round bye in the PIAA District 1 AAA Boys Soccer playoffs, and will host a second-round game on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. Avon Grove concluded their season with a 5-8-1 overall record, and a 2-4-1 record in the Ches-Mont National division.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.