INDEPENDENCE—For the Independence girls’ soccer team, Thursday’s game against visiting Beachwood at Alumni Stadium at Stan Skoczen Field was a moral victory.
The Blue Devils lost to the Bison, 3-0, but with just 11 healthy players, only one of which has scored a goal this season, the team did it all could to be competitive with their Chagrin Valley Conference opponent.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Independence coach Bryan Less. “They played really well. I told them at halftime, I’m like, ‘You guys played inspired ball like I had some great speech before the game.’ They did really well.”
Injuries and illnesses left the Blue Devils with just enough players to fill out the lineup. It didn’t matter that Maria Sagi began playing soccer in August or fellow newcomer Lauren Taras was short on experience. They were pressed into action for a full 80 minutes.
“A couple of the girls that are in their first year here, I think the pieces are coming together for them,” Less said. “In the first half, Maria Sagi had some really good touches and she controlled the ball. She’s only been playing soccer for like four months. In the second half, Lauren Taras was making some great runs. It was real good growth.”
Olivia Jones, one of Independence’s two seniors, and junior Daniela Radjukovic, also played well.
“A couple of games ago we played Cuyahoga Heights and my experienced players didn’t play that well,” Less said. “The experienced players that were on the field today like Daniela and Olivia, they played really, really strong. They had very strong games.”
Beachwood scored two goals in the first half and added another in the third but Krista DeFini recorded seven saves to keep the Blue Devils in the game.
The Blue Devils never showed signs of wearing down.
“We train hard and do a lot of conditioning. On days like this it really comes through,” Less said. “The only way they could get a break is when I rotated some of the defenders and the midfield and vice versa. I didn’t really see any of that (fatigue). One of our points of emphasis was to compete for 80 minutes and they definitely did that. I didn’t notice Beachwood emptying their bench or anything so I told them, ‘You were playing against their strongest 14, 15, 16 players the whole game,’ so they competed really well. I’m proud of this group tonight.”
Independence travels to Valley Forge on Saturday.