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High School Sports

Girls soccer: Cardinals win first sectional championship


SHEFFIELD — The Brookside girls made history on two levels Thursday night.

They won the first sectional soccer championship in the history of the program in the first postseason game they ever hosted.

It took the Cardinals 110 minutes of regulation and overtime play and a shootout to nip Firelands 2-1 and advance to a district semifinal for the first time.

They’ll play the state’s top-ranked team in Rocky River, a 7-0 winner over Beaumont on Thursday, in a 7 p.m. game Monday. The site is to be announced.

The Falcons made it to the match with a shootout victory of their own — a likewise 2-1 win over Vermilion on Monday night.

It was the second time this season Brookside posted a one-goal victory over Firelands.

The Cardinals were 1-0 victors in their Patriot Athletic Conference meeting.

There were two Brookside heroes Thursday.

Sophomore midfielder Vanessa Vanzant nailed the Cardinals’ fifth and final penalty kick, giving them a 3-2 lead in the shootout.

Junior goalkeeper Arianna Sanchez made the save on the Falcons’ final kick to cement the victory.

“We practiced hard all day yesterday and our work paid off,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t want to end my season (in a shootout).”

She said she was confident after Vanzant connected.

“I thought, ‘Well, I have to stop at least one more so we don’t have to keep going,’” she said. “By that time, I just wanted to be done with it.”

Vanzant was delighted with the outcome.

“Right now, I’m very happy,” Vanzant said. “I’m glad I could support my team. This means the world to us. We’ve never been this far before and these girl are my sisters. The fact that we were able to make it this far means everything.”

It was an eerie coincidence at the end of regulation that the match was tied at 1, because the goals were similar — long shots that cleared the goalkeepers’ outstretched arms — and each was scored by a player wearing No. 2.

The Cardinals struck first with senior defender Jaylenne Minissale connecting from about 35 yards in the 11th minute. Brookside held the lead until the final minute of the first half, when Falcons senior midfielder Alyssa Melendez scored from about 30 yards.

Each team had two good second-half chances. The Cardinals’ Hanna Sours, a sophomore, made Firelands keeper Alex Willis go to work with a hard shot in the 45th minute. Barely a minute later, her freshman sister Madison also put a shot right on, but Willis was again up to the task.

Firelands’ Melendez headed a shot right on goal in the 54th minute, which Sanchez saved. And four minutes later, Melendez came back and fired a hard shot that Sanchez stopped.

In the shootout, the Cardinals (9-4-4) got goals from Hannah Sours and sophomore Alexis White, in addition to Vanzant’s clincher. Freshman Karli Vukovac and junior Rebecca Jackson scored for the Falcons (10-6-1).

Zoran Cancar, the Cardinals’ second-year coach, said that after Megan O’Connor, the team’s top player in 2012, graduated in June, not much was expected of them this season.

“But this team — and it doesn’t matter what players are on it — fights,” he said. “They fight and they want to win. I think the culture has changed here. The year before I got here, it was a one-win team. I think we’re establishing something as a community and a school and we’re building something for the future.”

Falcons coach Morgan Ziegler said her girls were stronger the second half than they were the first 40 minutes.

“First half, they seemed frantic to me,” she said. “The second half, they put together some of the best passing sequences I’ve seen all year. They played so hard and were so focused. We just weren’t able to put it in the back of the net. But hats off to Brookside, they played well. It was a good game.”

Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or

Brookside 2, Firelands 1 (OT)

GOALS: (F) Alyssa Melendez (39th minute); (B) Jaylenne Minissale (11th).

SHOOTOUT GOALS: (F) Karli Bukovac, Rebecca Jackson; (B) Hannah Sours, Alexis White, Vanessa Vanzant.

SAVES: (F) Alexandria Willis 5; (B) Arianna Sanchez 3.

SHOTS: Firelands 4; Brookside 8.

SHOTS ON GOAL: Firelands 3; Brookside 5.

CORNER KICKS: Brookside 1.

GOAL KICKS: Firelands 8; Brookside 2.

HANDBALLS: Brookside 1.

FOULS/INFRACTIONS: Firelands 3; Brookside 14.

CARDS: None.

HALF: 1-1.

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