KIRTLAND—The postseason presents a myriad of challenges to competing teams and Kirtland found that out in its 4-0 win over visiting Elyria Catholic in a Division III sectional final on Thursday.
The Hornets controlled possession but found it extremely difficult to penetrate the 11-player defense the Panthers presented in the rematch of last season’s regional championship game.
“We talk about it every year, it’s not going to be easy,” Kirtland coach Ed Bradac said. “We definitely had possession throughout the game and they definitely kept 11 girls in the box.”
Freshman Erika Zschuppe broke a scoreless tie with 27:54 left in the first half when she found space between two Panthers and placed the ball in the bottom right corner for a 1-0 lead.
The goal was the 27th of the season for Zschuppe.
Lidia Rodin set up Kirtland’s goal with a well-placed free kick. Jenna Sayle was there to finish it off for a 2-0 lead.
“At halftime, we talked about patience,” Bradac said. “We wanted to continue to play the ball wide and look to service balls into the box to try to loosen them up.”
The Hornets had several more opportunities but were denied by Elyria Catholic keeper Cameron Resor.
“The keeper did a nice job for them,” Bradac said. “There was always seemingly somebody in front of every shot we took.”
Rodin, who fell victim to Resor several times in the first half, finally found the back of the net with 12:45 left in the game to push the Hornet lead to 3-0.
It was Rodin’s first postseason score since the 2016 season.
“That was great for her,” Bradac said. “Several weeks ago, we thought she was done for the season. She came back from that injury and she’s so important to us as a player, as a leader and I couldn’t be any happier for her because last year she went the entire postseason without a single goal. She literally hit a crossbar and hit a post, so for her to score that is big for our team.”
Lilia Valentic, who missed the early part of the season recovering from an injury, closed out the scoring.
“That was good for her confidence,” Bradac said. “Every game she plays, she’s getting better and better and she’s getting back to the same player she was for us last year.”
Scoring four goals against a defensive-minded opponent could bode well for the Hornets as they continue their march back to the state tournament.
Kirtland, the No. 1 seed in the Division III Elyria District, hosts No. 4 Beachwood on Monday at 4:30 p.m. in a district semifinal.
“It’s so hard to play that kind of game when you know that no matter what you do there is going to be one or two or three defenders on you,” Bradac said. “I think it helps us because it prepares us for possibly what lies ahead for what teams are going to do to us.”