Kirtland’s girls’ soccer team learned a lot about itself on Saturday in a non-conference game against Division I Mayfield.
The visiting Wildcats took a 2-1 lead into halftime but the Hornets rallied in the final 40 minutes to earn a 2-2 draw against a team that had played in three straight Division I regional tournaments.
“We were just outplayed in the first half,” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac. “You’re going up against a team that’s played in the regionals for the last three years, losing to state champion Walsh, so it’s a DI game. It’s a different speed and it’s more physical, all legal, but you’ve got to come ready to play. For the first 20 minutes we didn’t match up with them.”
Kirtland struggled to match Mayfield’s speed and intensity in the first half.
“They were winning every head ball and beating us to every possible possession,” Bradac said.
That helped the Wildcats to build a 2-0 lead, but Maggie Kadas scored from a distance to give the Hornets some hope.
“Maggie gets a free kick from a good 35 yards out and puts it on goal and it goes in, so we’re down 2-1 going into halftime,” Bradac said. “To be honest, I think we felt pretty fortunate to be only down 2-1.”
Bradac knew his team wouldn’t survive another half unless the Hornets raised their intensity.
“We challenged our girls to either let it continue where we’re getting beat to every ball or to start winning them in increments of five minutes, to start winning some balls and put the pressure on them and that’s what we did,” he said. “I feel like we played a solid second half. We had a goal called back, they had a goal called back; it was back and forth.”
Jenna Sayle scored the equalizer midway through the second period off an assist from Amber Yurick and Gabby Culotta recorded seven saves.
The Hornets, who were playing without one starter, gained a valuable moral victory as they prepare for the upcoming Division III playoffs next week.
“Lilia Valentic wasn’t there, so we were down a starter and some other girls stepped up and played solid minutes for us and we switched some people, which was nice to do,” Bradac said. “We were down two goals and we were resilient enough to battle back against a quality opponent. That was huge. The moment wasn’t too big for them.”
The Hornets, who improved to 8-4-3 overall, are 8-1-2 since starting the season 0-3-1.
Kirtland closes out the regular season at Wellington on Tuesday.