Avon Grove defeats Garnet Valley, 7-4
● By Steven Hoffman
To the casual observer, Avon Grove appeared to match Garnet Valley's hustle and intensity during the evenly matched first half of their April 13 game.
Momentum turned quickly from one team to the other. One team would score and then the other would answer with a goal. The game was tied, 3-3, when the second quarter ended, and neither team could claim a meaningful advantage of any kind.
But Avon Grove is one of the best teams in the area year in and year out, and those who know the squad best—the coaches and the players themselves—understood that the intensity in the first half was falling short of their own expectations.
So at halftime, the Avon Grove coaches talked to the players about not matching the other team's intensity, but surpassing it. And in the third quarter, the players responded.
After falling behind 4-3 when Garnet Valley's Jake D'Annunzio scored his third goal of the game early in the third quarter, Avon Grove took control of the contest by playing well in all phases of the game. The offense was putting more pressure on Garnet Valley, and the defense was stopping the opposing team and sending the offense back on the attack.
During a torrid twelve-minute stretch, Avon Grove scored four goals and built a 7-4 lead and never looked back against a good Garnet Valley squad. Avon Grove senior Brendan Harman was a force on offense, contributing three goals and one assist.
Avon Grove head coach Eric Jackson was pleased with the way that his team played during the latter part of the game to earn the victory.
“We always want to increase the intensity,” Jackson said after the game. “I think we took a step toward that tonight. I'm proud of these guys. The effort is always there.”
Jackson said that Avon Grove has struggled a little bit in the third quarter of games this year, and it was good to see the team play better as the game moved toward its conclusion. The coaches have been trying to get the team to understand the importance of winning the third quarter.
The Avon Grove coach praised the work of his two goalies against Garnet Valley. Kevin Malone had six saves during the first half, while Andrew Spencer had four in the second half.
Strong defense has been an important part of Avon Grove's development into one of the best teams in the area, and that is certainly the case again this year. But Harman, who plays attack, said that the squad is very balanced and can score, too.
“We have a tremendous offense,” Harman said. “We move the ball well and we're quick. Any one of us can score on this team.”
Avon Grove's record now stands at 7-1, and the team is riding a five-game winning streak despite the fact that there have been some injuries to key players—including two captains, Doug Jones and Brayden Peck. Peck is only now returning for limited action after an injury that occurred playing another sport.
“Without Doug and Brayden out there, it's been a process fill those different roles,” Jackson said, explaining that other players have needed to step up to fill the void.
Avon Grove's ability to beat good teams despite the injuries speaks volumes about this year's group.
“It shows that we have a lot of depth and we can play with anyone,” Harman said.