COLUMBUS—Erika Zschuppe’s overtime goal clinched Kirtland’s 3-2 win over Cincinnati Country Day in the Division III OHSAA state championship game at MAPFRE Stadium on Friday.
With the win, the Hornets became the first public school to win the Division III state title since the OHSAA expanded to three divisions in 2011.
“We watched film for four hours (on Thursday),” Kirtland coach Ed Bradac said. “The girls came out and did everything we asked them to do. I think about all the people who have come before us. They’re the recipients of all that hard work. This is an amazing group of girls but it’s all the other girls that came before them that we owe so much gratitude to.”
Kirtland has played in four straight state Final Fours with the Hornets finishing as the state runners-up in both 2017 and 2018. Country Day beat the Hornets in 2018, 3-0, on the way to winning back-to-back state titles.
That streak came to a halt when Zschuppe scored just over three minutes into the overtime period off of a through ball from Aria Evans-Roskos. It was her third goal of the day and her 53rd on the year.
“I shifted over because I needed to help with the play over on this side,” Zschuppe said of the game-winner. “Next thing you know, I see Ari with the ball and I know she gives beautiful through balls and I called for it. She gives a beautiful through ball, first touch and I slid it in. It was so nice. “
Zschuppe gave the Hornets an early 1-0 lead when she punched in a deflection off a Giuliana Vladic free-kick. The assist was the 19th of the year for Vladic.
The goal was the first for the Hornets in three state championship game appearances.
“Giuliana played a nice, beautiful ball in and the girl missed it,” Zschuppe said. “I just took a touch and put it right between the goalie’s legs.”
That lead held up until Country Day’s Sydney Bortz and Piper Farris scored goals just 35 seconds apart early in the second half to give Country Day a 2-1 lead with 31:18 left in the game.
The Hornets didn’t panic and Zschuppe tied it just two minutes later on another through ball from Evans-Roskos. This time, Zschuppe outran the defense and used a left-footed touch to chip the ball over the keeper’s head and into the net.
“I think it was just our positivity, our mentality,” Zschuppe said of Kirtland’s ability to shake off Country Day’s scoring binge. “We just were like, ‘OK, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do this.’ I think we just kept working up to that moment and we never quit.”
Early in the overtime, Reilly Greenlee, who ran in the state cross country meet last Saturday, won a 50-50 ball and passed it to Evans-Roskos, who sent another through ball toward the Country Day net.
Zschuppe collected the ball about 35 yards out and dribbled to the right post. She finished with a crossing shot into the left corner to end the public school state title drought.
Prior to Kirtland’s win, public schools were 0-6 in state championship game appearances and private schools had won each state championship since 2011. Public schools were outscored in those six matches, 23-3.
“I can’t believe it, it’s so amazing,” said senior goalkeeper Corinne Aquila, who finished with 10 saves. “To be able to beat the team that we wanted to beat for so long, it’s just, honestly, I can’t believe we won.”
Zschuppe’s hat trick was just the second in the Division III championship game and the first since 2015 when Summit Country Day’s Addy Smythe scored three goals in a 6-0 win over Chippewa, who beat Kirtland in the state semifinals.
With the state championship, Aquila and her senior classmates added an exclamation point to their legacies.
Kirtland’s Class of 2021 finished with a career mark of 71-14-6 with four state Final Fours and three championship game appearances to their credit. Their 71 wins and .780 winning percentage are program bests.
Aquila hopes she and her classmates inspire future Hornets the same way they were motivated by the girls who came before them.
“I just hope that they never give up and they just keep believing in themselves,” she said. “They can come back here and win it again and again.”