KIRTLAND—A battle of two of Northeast Ohio’s top boys’ soccer programs resulted in a draw on Thursday as Kirtland and Mentor both converted a penalty kick in a 1-1 tie.
The Hornets entered the match 3-0 and had outscored their first three opponents, 25-0.
Head coach John Valentic knew his team needed to be tested and he was pleased with how his players responded.
“It’s a game we needed,” Valentic said. “No disrespect to our opponents, but we’ve had some competition that we were much, much better than and so this is a great test for us. We showed that we can play with strong, physical players. We can still maintain our standard and style and then we survived the game in a sense. They had some momentum and they were pressing but that’s the game. I’ll take it.”
The Hornets, who reached the regional semifinals last fall, entered this season with much higher expectations, and proving themselves against a strong Division I opponent will go a long way into developing the confidence the team will need in the postseason.
Both teams had several scoring opportunities outside of the second-half penalty kicks converted by Kirtland’s Marco Valentic and Mentor’s Eliott Miller.
Kirtland missed on an open net opportunity in the first half and the Cardinals ricocheted a few balls off the posts.
The Hornets played shorthanded as 2020 leading scorer Evan Dures was sidelined with an injury.
Dures, along with former Academy players Peter Vukovic and Valentic, along with Jason de Zwaan, who returns after scoring 15 goals last season, provide the Hornets with a dangerous quartet of talented players who know their way around the net.
“That’s another person they have to deal with,” Valentic said. “Now you have two very strong attackers and a good midfielder but when a defense has to deal with three, it’s just unnerving. Austin (Leland) did a great job and the people who went up there, but no offense, they’re not Evan. They don’t have his speed or skill. Evan played the first game and looked good and played most of the second game. Practices were fun to watch and they’re really competitive, but we have a bigger picture in mind and we’re hoping that we can get healthy when the timing is most important.”
Kirtland’s Anthony Svigel allowed the penalty kick but otherwise keyed the defensive effort to earn the draw
“He made a touch save on that free kick in the first half. If he doesn’t get that, it’s going into the goal,” Valentic said. “We like him because he’s great on his feet and he’s a good reaction keeper. He really got tested today and he showed he’s worth being in the sticks.”
The Hornets host Lakeside on Tuesday.