Kirtland head coach Ed Bradac had little doubt Tuesday’s non-conference showdown with visiting Gilmour Academy would be a defensive struggle. Even without two starters, including Ariana Cubela, the team’s second leading scorer, Bradac was confident his Hornets would put up a fight against the Lancers, ranked fifth in the News Herald Top of the Crop.
That’s because Bradac knew he had junior keeper Maddie Zuberer on his side.
Zuberer recorded two penalty kick saves to preserve her seventh clean sheet of the season in the 0-0 draw with the Lancers.
“She is probably one of the best goalkeepers in Northeast Ohio, plain and simple,” Bradac said. “We know that. We depend on her; we rely on her. I think she’s been a little hard on herself this year when she looks on goals she’s given up, but when she’s put in a situation and she’s challenged, she usually rises to that occasion.”
Zuberer was put to the test early when a handball penalty in the box set the Lancers up for a penalty kick in the seventh minute. Zuberer denied the first attempt but was called for moving early. She blocked the second attempt to keep the Lancers scoreless.
"When I heard there was going to be a PK, I thought to myself, ‘I love these.’ and stepped on the line,” Zuberer said. “With the first PK being stopped, I was overjoyed. After finding out I had to take another PK, I said to myself, ‘Alright let's go, I can do this.' The second PK, I knew she was going to my left. After making those two saves, I couldn't stop smiling."
It’s the second straight time the Hornets and Lancers played a scoreless 80 minutes. Gilmour Academy defeated Kirtland, 1-0, with an overtime goal in the 2013 playoffs.
“We told the girls before the game that I truly believe it’s 50-50; it’s an evenly matched game,” Bradac said. “They are defensively very sound. They’ve only given up four goals all year. We’ve given up 11. I said it’s going to be a defensive battle; a defensive struggle.”
Anchored by Zuberer, Kirtland’s defense held.
Emily Kadas, Kerri Zalba and Hallie Ward fought off Gilmour’s attack and did their best to protect the Kirtland net.
“I thought not only with Mo, but with Emily, Kerri and Hallie, we did an outstanding job in the back,” Bradac said. “Defensively, they were coordinated and they played great team soccer in the back.”
Kirtland (7-4-1) plays at Wickliffe on Thursday then has a week off before hosting Beachwood the following Thursday.