"Going in we thought we matched up well against them," Downingtown coach Paul Hurly said. "We were as good as they were in skill, speed and toughness. But the problem was in height: In every position, they were taller than us."
Hurly knew the Pioneers' height advantage would be most difficult to defend on dead-ball fouls, when Conestoga would try to loft long crossing or downfield passes in front of the Whippets' goal and have their tall players try to head them in for goals.
The Downingtown strategy was to limit the number of fouls they committed to prevent the dead-ball situations.
"Our tactics worked," said Hurly, who kept some of his more aggressive players out of the game to prevent fouls. "We scored first and only gave up four or five restarts."
But Conestoga converted two of the restarts into goals.
Downingtown scored first when junior Greg Wilson smacked a long shot past Pioneer goalie Glen Fedor in the first quarter.
Conestoga came back in the second quarter. After a Downingtown penalty, Conestoga sweeper Greg Williams lofted a long ball into the Whippets' penalty area. Chris Perillo outleaped the shorter Downingtown defenders and headed the ball past Marc Dinacci to tie the game at 1-1.
Later in the second period Williams lofted another long pass off a penalty, and this time Jeff VanTiem headed the ball in for a 2-1 Conestoga lead.
"That sweeper (Williams) just killed us with those passes," Hurly said.
After the loss, Hurly expressed his admiration for Conestoga.
"To beat a quality team like ourselves twice in a season (Conestoga beat Downingtown 2-1 earlier this year) you have to be for real," Hurly said.
But still he was disappointed.
"We came into the season with high expectations, and this was a very frustrating loss," Hurly said. "We considered this a quick exit from the tournament, and we expected to be playing well into November."
Hurly also said that any of the teams that reached the quarterfinal round had the talent to reach the final four of the state championship tournament, which Downingtown accomplished last year.
"It is tougher to advance out of this district than it is to win in the first two rounds of the state tournament (against non-District 1 teams) and reach the final four," Hurly said.
Several Downingtown players received postseason honors. Strikers Shawn Ferris and Mark McSherry, midfielder Jim Pezone, fullbacks Scott Wilson and Jeff Seese and goaltender Dinacci were all named to the All-Ches-Mont soccer first team.
Dinacci was runner-up to Steve Gilmor of West Chester East in the balloting for the league's most valuable player award.