MENTOR—Late in Kirtland’s 7-1 win over Navarre Fairless on Thursday in a Division III district championship game, something happened that explained the key to the Hornets winning their fourth straight district title and fifth in the last six seasons.
Kirtland coach Ed Bradac had emptied his bench, which left an opening for the Fairless attack to slip through. One Falcon was bearing down on Kirtland keeper Corinne Greenlee, but, seemingly out of nowhere, senior Amber Yurick chased down the Fairless player from behind and prevented a final shot on goal.
“It’s that pride,” Bradac said. “It’s Amber’s pride and the fact she doesn’t want to let Corinne down in goal, because you don’t want to let Corinne down in goal, which we did. That was one thing, I wish we would have kept the shutout but the shutout wasn’t as valuable as it was to play those underclassmen for 20 minutes in a district final.”
That pride Bradac spoke of, that has developed over the course of many years as the Hornets evolved into one of the most dominant programs in the state.
Dating back to 2015, the year Kirtland became a state-recognized program, the Hornets are 97-22-10 overall with five district championships, two state runner-up finishes and two other appearances in the Final Four.
Kirtland is 28-5 in the postseason during that span and an impressive 56-7-3 against Division III competition. The Hornets are even more dominant against Division III public schools as they have won 48 of 52 games with two ties.
“At one time, someone said something to me in 2015, they said, ‘Wow, you got so close to making it to the state championship game and you didn’t get there and that’s your last chance,’” Bradac said. “That’s always stuck in my head and resonated with me. I felt like, ‘You don’t know us.’ That was just the beginning and we’ve proven that.”
The Hornets more than proved they weren’t a one-hit-wonder and have since dominated the district.
With Thursday’s win, the Hornets improved to 15-1-3 and will host top-seeded Doylestown Chippewa in a regional semifinal on Tuesday.
Aside from the goal Fairless scored midway through the second half after a wave of Kirtland substitutions, the Hornets were nearly perfect in beating the Falcons.
“We felt we were the better team coming in and we were the No. 2 seed,” Bradac said. “I said to the girls, the longer you keep a team in it and let them stay in the game, the harder it’s going to be. We need to come out and keep possession and really attack. They did everything we asked them to do early on.”
Kirtland’s offense went on the attack early.
The Hornets had earned two corner kicks just four minutes into the game and finally scored the first goal when Mia Rini setup Erika Zschuppe’s first of three goals with 34 minutes left in the first half. Zschuppe added her second 10 minutes later.
Leah LaVerde and Aria Evans-Roskos pushed the lead to 4-0 and after LaVerde was tackled in the box, Evans-Roskos converted the PK to give the Hornets a 5-0 lead. LaVerde would add a second goal just before halftime to push the lead to 6-0.
Zschuppe closed out Kirtland’s scoring early in the second half.
With the win, Kirtland’s Class of 2021 added to its legacy.
The Hornet seniors on Monday became the winningest class in school history by picking up its 66th win. The classes of 2019 and 2020 both had won 65 games during their four-year careers.
“This group of seniors, and they’re an amazing group, but the last group we had last year was an amazing group and I feel like I’m a broken record but that’s the culture we’ve built,” Bradac said. “It’s a sport that the girls want to play in the fall. This group is outstanding. The leadership is great and it’s just a different dynamic like it is every year. I think it’s taken us a little bit of time but I think we’ve figured out who we are. To win four district titles in four years, that says it all.”
Kirtland’s seniors also have posted the highest winning percentage in school history with a mark of .770.
The Class of 2020 finished with a .747 winning percentage and 2019 came in at .739.