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EASTLAKE—The scoreboard tilted toward the Cleveland Ambassadors, but the Croatia Juniors had plenty to be proud of following a 6-2 loss in Women’s Premier Soccer League action at Nick Carter Stadium on Thursday.

The Juniors led 1-0 early but a three-goal run in the span of seven minutes was the difference as the Ambassadors recorded their second win of the season.

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“I honestly thought this was our best game,” said Croatia Juniors head coach Drago Dumbovic. “We haven’t had the same starting 11 in any game but today was just beautiful. We were winning 1-0 in the first 30 minutes and it was absolutely beautiful. The girls played outstanding and with a lot of poise. The ball was going from side to side, inside to outside, and we had a beautiful goal.”

That goal came in the ninth minute when Kayleigh Penton (Vermilion/University of Akron) broke free along the right sideline and delivered a perfect strike to Emily Gimmel (North Ridgeville/Notre Dame College), who headed the ball into the upper corner for a 1-0 lead.

“She beat her defender,” Gimmel said of Penton’s assist. “She crossed her up and then she played this huge ball over in the box. My defender didn’t expect it and I headed it right in.”

Nine minutes later, Tori Hallwachs (Chagrin Falls/Georgetown) tapped in a deflection to tie the game at 1-1.

A defensive breakdown with five minutes remaining in the half led to a Linli Tu (Beijing Normal/Taylor University) goal that gave the Ambassadors a 2-1 lead at the break.

Gimmel recorded her second goal of the game and season just 10 minutes into the second half when she found an opening from 30 yards out and dropped the ball just behind the opposing keeper.

“I was really shocked for that one,” she said. “It just went right in the corner.”

Olivia Jarrell (St. Augustine, Fla./Columbus State) stole the momentum back when she found the net in the 69th minute to give the Ambassadors a 3-2 lead.

The deficit forced Dumbovic to adjust his defense.

The Ambassadors capitalized on the risky move by scoring two more goals in a seven-minute span.

“After we got down, we had to go to a 3-4-3 and that’s when they got those quick goals,” Dumbovic said. “The last one, we had a corner kick and it was a counter-attack. It was those little mistakes that cost us a lot, but overall, I thought the team for the majority of the game played really well.”

Tu scored her second goal of the game off of a corner kick in the 71st minute and Jarrell finished off a cross five minutes later. Hallwachs closed out the scoring with her second goal of the game with just seven minutes remaining in the contest.

“We were our own worst enemy,” Dumbovic said. “Most of the goals they scored against us were actually our own fault. Usually, you are not punished but it was one of those games where every mistake is punishable, which usually doesn’t happen.”

Dumbovic knew his tactical adjustment was risky but it was worth it to give his team a fighting chance.

“We have to start taking chances,” he said. “I took the chance, that’s my fault because I wanted to open up a little bit to try and score the goal. If we scored one more goal, everything changes. It didn’t work. That is one of those things. It was my call to into a 3-4-3 to really try to force the issue and to get that goal and then in the last minute or so to go for it. Obviously, they used that advantage against us. That was on me, but if you lose 4-2 or 5-2, it doesn’t really matter. I just want my team to have a chance to win.”

Despite the loss, the Juniors have grown in their two weeks together.

They entered the game with two goals scored in three games and now sit at four as they prepare for a road game at Ambassadors Cleveland on June 24.

“It was really exciting,” Gimmel said. “We doubled our goals, so that was awesome, and we’re starting to connect more. A lot of us came out here not expecting what it is and we’re starting to play better with each other and connect. It’s really exciting to see it.”

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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.