In seven years as head coach of the Unionville High School soccer team, Rich Garber has fielded some fantastic squads.
None, however, have been better than his latest version.
Unionville scored a groundbreaking victory this past Monday night to earn its first trip to the state playoffs in school history. In a thrilling game against previously undefeated and top seeded Downingtown West in the District 1 Class AAA quarterfinals, the No. 8 seed Indians shocked the nationally ranked Whippets by a score of 2-1 in double overtime thanks to a goal by senior Connor Moore in the 103rd minute at Downingtown's DiSerafino Stadium.
The victory earned Unionville (18-3-1 overall) a berth into the district semifinals as well. Meanwhile, Downingtown West (20-1 overall), who had surrendered a total of just four goals the entire season coming into the match, saw its 2006 campaign come to end after Moore's sudden death tally. The senior midfielder headed a corner kick from teammate Andy McSweeney just under the cross bar to set off a massive celebration for the Indians, while sending Downingtown West into a state of complete disbelief. Many of the Whippets' players laid on the turf after the goal covering their faces.
"I was just thinking get my head on it, and put it between the bars," said Moore, who also scored the Indians' other goal late in the first half to even the match after the Whippets had jumped out to a 1-0 lead. "I was shocked when it went in. It was an awesome feeling.
"There was a lot of pressure in this game knowing that if you lost your season was over. They're the best team we've seen all year, but we knew that if we played well we could beat them."
Who could blame Unionville for being confident?
The Indians have been on absolute fire ever since a 2-1 overtime loss to reigning PIAA Class AAA state runner-up West Chester Henderson way back on Sept. 19. Since that setback, Unionville has gone 15-0-1, including 12 straight victories, and outscored its opponents 58-8 during that stretch.
In its previous two district games, Unionville had beaten North Penn (2-1) and Abington (3-2) in double overtime.
"We came in confident," said Garber. "We've been playing so well. Downingtown West is a great team, but there wasn't any fear on our parts. We knew this was a winnable game if we played the way we're capable of playing.
"Coming into the season one of the goals the kids set was to make the state playoffs. This is a real big win for our program. We've never been to states before, and quite frankly I'm really out of words right now."
Unionville, who has already set a school record for shutouts in a season with 11, limited the high-powered Downingtown West attack to just one goal. It came early when Whippets senior James Shupp scored less than six minutes in.
That would be it for the hosts throughout the remaining 97 minutes of action. Unionville senior goalie Craig Butz stopped all seven shots he faced the rest of the way.
"It was a total team effort," said Butz. "We played our best game of the season tonight."
Moore scored with just over 13 minutes left in the opening half when he rifled one off the post that then caromed off goalie Bobby Rosato and into the net.
Unionville, the 2006 Southern Chester County League champions, had lost to Ches-Mont League champs Downingtown West by a score of 3-0 earlier in the year.
Revenge was sweet.
"This basically solidifies us as the best team in school history," said Unionville senior co-captain Matt Thaeder. "We feel we can play with any team, any time."
Unionville's victory over Downingtown West propelled them into the District 1 Class AAA semifinals, where they were scheduled to face Council Rock North on Nov. 1. That game occurred after our press time. A Unionville win would advance them to the district championship game on Saturday night, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. against either Neshaminy or Souderton at West Chester East High School. To view the updated brackets for the District 1 tournament, visit www.district-one.net.