Country Day downs Kirtland in Division III state final

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Country Day 3, Kirtland 0

COLUMBUS—Kirtland’s bid to become the first public school to win a Division III state championship fell short with a 3-0 loss to Cincinnati Country Day at MAPFRE Stadium on Friday.

The Hornets battled the Indians to a 0-0 tie at halftime then allowed three second-half goals in the loss.

“They’re a very good team from top to bottom,” Kirtland coach Ed Bradac said. “We just needed a little bit of luck I think in that first half where we had a couple free kicks in a good spot and I think that would have helped. We had one in the second half that also would have helped. I’m incredibly proud of our girls because they battled the entire 80 minutes of this game.”

Kirtland’s best chance to become the first public school to score a goal in the eight state championship games since the Ohio High School Athletic Association added a third division in 2011 came in the first half when Erika Zschuppe was tripped up just outside the box.

Zschuppe’s free kick was fielded by the Country Day goalkeeper. The Indians then mounted their attack and finished the first half with a 15-3 shots on goal advantage.

Bradac altered his game plan in the second half in an effort to create more scoring opportunities for Zschuppe and Maya Zovko, the team’s leading scorers.

“Let’s try to play some longer balls over the top and see if we get Erika or Maya to run under them and not have to sit in this defensive shell so much,” Bradac said. “We also said we’d have the wind in the second half which would potentially give us a hand.”

Country Day finally broke the scoreless tie in the 50th minute off a ball that bounced around the box and deflected off several players before finding the back of the net.

The Hornets once again drew a free kick, this one at the top of the box, but Zschuppe’s shot sailed high and the Indians quickly countered with a second goal.

“It was just a messy goal,” Bradac said. “That’s a hard one, obviously, because we’re looking to tie it at 1-1 and then to give up the second goal, it’s a tough goal to concede.”

Country Day added a third goal with nine minutes left in the game.

Kirtland closed out the year with a 20-3 record and back-to-back appearances in the state championship game despite graduating nine seniors from last year’s squad.

“It’s interesting because I think the second time it’s a little bit more painful for the girls,” Bradac said. “That shows the drive. They will without a doubt want to be back here again next year.”

The loss closed out the careers of seniors Brittney Alfieri, Lauren Lutz, Jenna Sayle, Emily Ungrady and Elizabeth Vernon.

That group led the program to a record of 65-16-7 over the last four years. The Hornets finished as the state runner-up twice and also reached the Final Four in 2015.

“This is a group of girls that in 2015 played for a state semifinal game and now in 2017 and 2018 they played for a state championship,” Bradac said. “I don’t know what else I can say about the five of them. It’s a commitment. It’s time. Again, we’re a group of girls that don’t necessarily play soccer all year long. Several of them are going to go on and play basketball and then they go on and play softball. That’s who we are. We just work. I’m very proud of all of them.”

Kirtland is just one of four public schools to appear in the eight Division III state championship games.

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.