Blue Devils win 35th straight regular season game

Elek McDonald

Sam Belitz scored a pair of goals and Seamus Kral added another to lead Independence to a 3-1 win over visiting Gilmour Academy on Thursday.

“It was a good tune-up match in preparation for the playoffs,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “Gilmour played a fast and aggressive attacking game and controlled a lot of the possession. We had to battle through it and get some good goals from our goal scorers, but ultimately ended up giving up a goal on a penalty kick, which was warranted.”

The win was the 35th straight regular-season victory for the Blue Devils, who are unbeaten in their last 46 regular season games dating back to the 2016 season opener, a 2-1 loss to Buckeye. That loss was the only home loss Independence’s seniors have suffered in their four-year careers with the program.

“The undefeated streak is strictly a byproduct of us following our main goal, which is to play better soccer every day,” Belitz said. “It’s definitely very cool to have the chance to go undefeated for two seasons in a row, but it’s not the main priority.”

The Blue Devils close out the regular season at Lutheran West on Saturday.

Belitz scored his first goal on a loose ball and finished off a pass from Adam Leibel on the second.

“The first one was when I picked up a loose ball in the midfield and had a shot from about 30 yards out,” Belitz said. “The keeper got a tip on it, but thankfully it still dropped in. The second one was a counter-attack. I received on the corner of our 18 box on the right side and dribbled down the line. An extended 1-2 from Adam Leibel put me in on goal and I beat the goalkeeper from there and passed it in.”

Ethan Manelski recorded seven saves and has now allowed just six goals in 15 games.

“The defense has been amazing all year with help from the midfield and they have put maximum effort into every play,” Manelski said. “Emmett Stralka has been a great addition to the defense and has not needed water in seven games. Jimmy Senick has done an amazing job man-marking when we need him to and Kyle Streibel has been the anchor of our defense and has made it a lot more comfortable for me in the net knowing that I have a solid group of boys in front of me.”