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WEST CHESTER – With the way the Downingtown East and West Chester Bayard Rustin girls soccer teams were playing against each other, it would seem unfair to have a winner in the Ches-Mont League matchup Wednesday night.
And that’s just what happened as neither team was able to crack the goalkeepers through two overtimes, keeping both teams unbeaten in Ches-Mont play.
“We’ve been on both ends of this,” said Rustin head coach Peter Rohall. “We lost an overtime game our first game and on Monday, we won an overtime game. You would like to win, but the effort of both teams was really, really fine tonight and it showed girls Ches-Mont soccer is alive and well in these kids because they all worked as hard as they could right to the last second.”
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It was consistently a back-and-forth game with the momentum shifting at any moment’s notice.
“It was a playoff atmosphere between two good Ches-Mont League teams — two undefeated teams in the middle of the season,” Rohall said.
On either end of the pitch, standing tall for their teams, were the goalkeepers.
Senior Kaelyn Johns, for East (5-0-2, 5-1-3), made 12 timely saves and senior Charlotte Elrod did the same for Rustin (6-0-1, 8-2-2) with 11 saves, two of which were huge fingertip saves in the second half and again in the first overtime.
“That was the best game (Elrod’s) played all year,” Rohall said. “She made some wonderful saves and she managed the back well. They tested her a couple really good times and she did a nice job.”
Just 50 seconds into the first overtime, Elrod faced a touch challenge on junior Alyssa Diamond’s kick. Diving to stop it, Elrod was able to get enough of the ball with her fingers to deflect it wide of the goal.
“Gotta get there,” Elrod said of the big save. “That’s pretty much it. Gotta get there or it’s done. That’s what keeps me going.
“I’m not going to lie. I get a little nervous (in overtime), but it’s really motivating because you know that every save you make has to be a big one because it’s the golden goal.”
Despite the nerves, she and her counterpart in Johns put on a stellar performance as the pace became more frantic as the minutes ticked by through both extra sessions.
“It was pretty intense, but all over the field, everybody was really feeling it and everybody’s heads were in the game, which was really nice,” Elrod said.
Though it was an intense battle between the two league opponents, Rohall knows his team could have been better, especially after knowing they could have won with 34 seconds left in regulation when sophomore Anushree Godbole missed an opportunity with half an open net in front of her when she kicked it wide.
“We don’t utilize the space on the field like we should and we’ve been working on that,” he said. “One of the reasons teams don’t finish is because they don’t do that. We’re better than we were, but not nearly good enough yet.”
But the coach can be happy with the fact that Rustin is still undefeated in Ches-Mont action with the regular season beginning to wind down.
“We call this the first season,” Rohall said. “We play the first season to get into the second season, which is the playoffs, and then you play in the playoffs to get into the third season, which is the state tournament. We’re making progress in the first season.”