TWINSBURG — Elyria Catholic’s girls soccer team had not allowed a goal through the first four games of the postseason.
That spotless streak ended Saturday in a big way as the Panthers fell 5-0 to Kirtland in the Division III regional final.
But while the score doesn’t show it, the EC defense played well for the most part Saturday. The Hornets, ranked ninth in the state, managed to push one shot in on a loose ball in front of the goal and scored two on corner kicks to all but sew up the regional title and a trip to the final four.
“They had a couple lucky shots where we just lost our man, but other than that, I think we played our best,” said EC senior captain Riley Doll, one of the team’s top defenders.
Kirkland tacked on two more goals in the last three minutes to account for the final margin. Still, there’s no doubt the Hornets were the most-skilled team Elyria Catholic has faced in the tournament.
EC marked sophomore Maya Zovko, Kirtland’s leading scorer, all day but just 12 minutes and four seconds into the game she was able to end the Panthers’ shutout streak. Zovko found a bouncing, loose ball in front of the goal and sent a shot past senior goalkeeper Meghan Scheibelhut for all the scoring the Hornets would need.
“Our defense played strong,” senior captain Riana Kelley said. “Their goals were lucky ones. We should have stepped up.”
Kirkland (14-4-3) capitalized on two corner kicks, one with 11:33 left in the first half and the second with 15:18 left in the game. EC couldn’t recover.
“We had a little bit of a problem on the corners,” Scheibelhut said. “That’s mostly when they scored. The score doesn’t show how good a team we are. It’s just hard.”
“The difference in (Saturday’s) game was the set plays and injuries,” EC coach Ryan Manner said. “I think we played with them the entire first 25 to 30 minutes. Then Makenna (Hodges) got hurt and she never went back in and then Meredith (Flanagan) got hurt. Those are our two center midfield senior leaders. That really hurt … and then the set plays. They took advantage of the set plays.
“Those last two goals — I had my (other) seniors in so that they’d be on the field at the end. We’ve been scored on by corner kicks twice the whole year.”
Hodges left in the first half and Flanagan early in the second.
“Our defense did an amazing job of keeping (Zofko) in check,” Scheibelhut said. “It was hard for us because their defense did a good job keeping Ryan (Kunkle) in check.”
Kunkle is EC’s top scorer.
“It was very frustrating,” Doll said. “I think we could have won this game but they obviously wanted it more. We did want it, but they played better.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Scheibelhut said. “Last year we won five games and this year we’ve lost six. It’s really amazing to see how far we’ve come as a team. This is a team effort, it wasn’t just one person.”
“We wanted to get to the final four like we did our freshman year,” Kelley said. “That would have been really cool. I got to be a part of that my freshman year and I really wanted and was hoping we could do it again. I’m proud of where we came and who we are as a team.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.