KIRTLAND—Kirtland graduated nine seniors from last year’s team that finished as the Division III state runner-up but don’t make the mistake of believing the Hornets’ young squad is inexperienced or lacks talent.
The Hornets defeated visiting Hawken in a Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division showdown at Recreation Park on Thursday, 4-1. It was Kirtland’s first regular season victory over Hawken in program history.
“Last year, I thought we had the team to beat them and to Hawken’s credit, they blanked us 4-0,” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac. “I don’t think we were at the right place last year, at that time. This year, I came in and I was more confident. I felt that there were parts of this Hawken team that we could kind of exploit.”
Bradac’s plan came together early as Maya Zovko finished off an Erika Zschuppe pass in the sixth minute to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead.
Zschuppe then converted an indirect kick to make it 2-0 with 26:10 left in the first half.
Zovko scored three minutes into the second half and Lauren Lutz scored from nearly 40 yards away midway through the second to make it 4-0.
“Our offense I think is the one big difference from last year to this year and it’s not to discredit girls we’ve had in the past. We have girls that are a threat every time they touch the ball one-on-one,” Bradac said. “On the outside, you’ve got to deal with Jenna Sayle. Up top you’ve got to deal with both Erika Zschuppe and Maya Zovko and in the middle you have Lidia Rodin, who at any given moment is basically going to crush a ball at the keeper. That’s exciting for us.”
Kianna Armstrong scored Hawken’s only goal late in the game.
That goal and the two free kicks the Hawks nearly converted were among the few blemishes in Kirtland’s win.
“Defensively, we’re solid,” Bradac said. “We’ve been solid all year. That’s only the second goal we’ve given up in three games. I always tell the girls that if we’re going to win games we have to be able to defend. It’s going to take us time to clean up those mistakes. We’re still young.”
Gabby Piazza, Tea Petric, Emily Ungrady and Amber Yurick helped protect Corinne Aquila in goal.
“Corinne has come up big,” Bradac said. “Emily has come up big. In fact, the goal we gave up, we had to pull Emily because her leg was bothering her a little bit. Gabby on the outside, Tea on the other side and Amber is doing a great job. We defend as 11, so even Maya and Erika come back and support and help.”
Despite the loss, Hawken coach Anton Trifonovs took away a lot of positives from the game.
“I wouldn’t say things didn’t go our way when it comes to the style of play,” Trifonovs said. “The first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes, we were able to outplay the opponent in every aspect of the game. I think today we were a little bit unlucky in the soccer moments where our opponent took a really big advantage of it and we have to give them the credit. Today, they had a special player who punished us every time we gave her that chance.”