SOUTH AMHERST — Wellington battled, scratched and clawed to keep its dreams of winning a share of the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division alive Wednesday night.
Thanks to a ninth-minute header from senior Emma Horoschak — all the offense the Dukes needed in a 1-0 win over Firelands at South Amherst Middle School — the dream lives.
Both teams spent most of the night in the midfield going toe-to-toe over every 50-50 ball and doing anything they could to gain an advantage in fierce defensive struggle.
“This was a big win for us because we’re going for the conference championship,” Dukes coach David Leigh said. “I expected it to be a tough, physical match. It was same way the last time we played, when they scored in the final 30 seconds for a 1-1 tie.”
In fact, for the seniors on the field it was the first time any of them on either team had bragging rights in the Wellington-Firelands rivalry. The past three seasons the teams played to a 1-1 draw.
Dukes goalkeeper Makaylin Moore made seven saves to keep the Falcons off the board, but the best save of the next was made by Wellington freshman defender Jill Laposky.
Early in the match, Firelands forward Alexis McCrary kicked a loose ball past a stretched out Moore. But before the ball could cross the goal line Laposky came rushing in to kick it out of harm’s way.
“My defense has been great all season,” Moore said of her teammates. “I couldn’t have asked for a better defense for my senior year. Jill has been great all season. She hustles to every ball and gives her all on every play.”
Wellington improved to 10-3-2 overall and 7-0-1 in the PAC. The Falcons dropped to 8-5-2 and concluded league play at 6-2-1.
While the Dukes and Falcons were doing battle, Buckeye was busy clinching a share of the Stars Division title for the sixth year in a row with a 4-1 win at Fairview.
Wellington has one more league game remaining — at home Saturday against Brookside — and a win gives the Dukes a share of the league title, their first since 2011.
“This win means a lot,” Horoschak said. “Firelands is a good team. We’ve been trying since freshman year to win the league and we feel like this is our year.”
Horoschak’s goal came off an assist from Grace Dudziak, who took a free kick from 30 yards away and played the ball to the far post where Horoschak was in position to head it into the top corner of the goal.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Horoschak said. “I saw the keeper going up to try to bat it up and I just thought I better go up and try to get it. I didn’t think I was going to get it. I said a prayer and jumped as high as I could.”
The Falcons matched Wellington in shots with eight and played well in the midfield. But they were unable to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.
“It was the kind of game I thought it would be,” Firelands coach Kevin Ziegler said. “Both teams played well. We made a mistake and broke down and they scored. We had a couple of chances early and we didn’t score.
“It’s better to have a game like this heading into the tournament than beating somebody by eight or nine goals. This loss wasn’t for lack of effort. We played well but sometimes the soccer gods just frown upon you.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Wellington 1, Firelands 0
Goal: (W) Emma Horoschak (ninth minute)
Assist: (W) Grace Dudziak
SAVES: (W) Makaylin Moore 7; (F) Macey Butchko 8
Fouls: Wellington 15, Firelands 10
Corner kicks: Wellington 1
Yellow cards: (W) Faith Alley (51st minute); (F) Peyton Phillips (48th minute)
Halftime: Wellington 1-0