Undefeated Badgers hold off Independence

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Berkshire 2, Independence 1

BURTON—Independence got off to a slow start then ran out of time in a 2-1 loss to second-seeded Berkshire in a Division III district semifinal at William A. Reed Stadium in Burton on Monday.

The sixth-seeded Blue Devils closed out their season with a 10-7-1 record while the Badgers kept their dream season alive with an 18-0 mark.

“Hats off to Independence,” said Berkshire coach Rick Nerone. “We know what kind of team and program they are. I knew they wouldn’t quit. Bryan won’t let any of his teams ever. They played with a lot of heart the whole game. Unfortunately, the weather played a huge factor in not allowing what both teams wanted to do with possession.”

Independence bounced back from a rough first half to challenge the Badgers in the final 40 minutes of play.

“The second half was a good half,” said Independence coach Bryan Less. “In the first, half we were disorganized in the back and we fixed that, we weren’t talking and we fixed that. Our intensity was a little low and we just weren’t passing the ball. All three units weren’t playing very well, but they played a lot better in the second half.”

Berkshire struck first when Lexi Boyk punched in her 31st goal of the season with 26:47 remaining in the opening half.

Julia Frank scored her 16th goal of the year on a free kick 11 minutes later to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead at the break.

“The first goal, it was because we didn’t even show up for 15 minutes and they scored and we finally showed up,” Less said. “The second goal, the girl hit it really far and hit it well.”

Independence’s offense gained possession in the second half and fired off several shots at Berkshire keeper Catherine Lillibridge, who recorded seven saves.

The Blue Devils cut their deficit when Molly Dougherty recorded her school-record 15th assist and Riccela DeGeronimo finished it off for her 15th goal of the season with 27:05 left in the game. DeGeronimo set a new school record for goals scored by a freshman.

“Those two really enjoy playing with each other,” Less said. “We always talk about dribbling until they stop you and have an eye on a teammate and she set it up. That was a nice double record right there.”

That goal gave the Blue Devils some momentum and they continued to attack the net but ran out of time.

“We had some more chances but we just couldn’t put them away, but they played really well in the second half,” Less said. “Before the game, I said win or lose, we want to go home knowing we played well and we played really well for 40 minutes. Berkshire is a nice team; they played well too.”

Berkshire advanced to Thursday’s district championship game against top-seeded Kirtland, which will be played at Cuyahoga Heights.

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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.