All over the field, the Rocky River girls soccer team was clicking on Aug. 25.
It controlled possession for most of the evening against visiting Buckeye and poured on the shot attempts, sending 18 on target. Six different players scored in an eventual 7-1 victory, the Pirates’ first of the young season.
According to coach Patrick Hopkins, they earned such a decisive win by adapting. A tough pre-season scrimmage with Magnificat, followed by a 6-3 season-opening loss at Columbus Bishop Watterson on Aug. 21, prompted some tweaks in philosophy.
“They are two phenomenal Division I teams,” Hopkins said. “And Watterson alone is going to take it deep into the state (tournament). We got exposed, and we wanted to make sure we filled those gaps and still kept our ability to go forward. So we made adjustments in our lineup and our formation just to cut back giving up the goals. We needed to provide a little more support.”
Consider that on the way to the Division II final four last fall, the Pirates lost a single game and gave up a grand total of 12 goals. Allowing six at Watterson challenged their resolve, and they responded days later by shutting down most Bucks attacks and holding them to three shots on net, one being an Alyssa Sibley goal in the 69th minute.
After such a complete effort against a fellow Great Lakes Conference team that had battled them to a 2-2 tie last season, the Pirates could feel a surge of momentum.
“Scoring that many goals, even though we still have so much to prove, that’s still a good way to start the season,” said sophomore Mackenzie Russell, a midfielder who played all 80 minutes.
Though focusing their attention more to the defensive end, the Pirates still managed to maintain their usual aggressive attack and got on the scoreboard less than a minute into regulation on an Annika Mocho goal. On a breakaway in the 13th, senior co-captain Taylor Byall scored to make it 2-0.
Sophia Sindelar (21st), Mocho (25th) and Marin Richmond (31st) all added goals to boost the lead to 5-0 before halftime. Sophia Murray (41st) and Maeve Kelly (51st) scored in the second to put them up 7-0.
And as sharp as the offense looked in creating breakaways and open shots, there may have been additional goals left on the table. The Pirates were whistled offside 11 times, and had a number of good looks stopped by Bucks goalie Brooke Cutlip, who made 11 saves in an impressive effort.
“We definitely missed a few chances and had a lot of offsides,” said Byall, who also tallied two assists. “But that’s all stuff we can fix. And it was good to have a 7-1 win because last year, Buckeye was one of the teams we tied. We wanted to come back this season and prove what we’re made of.”
Pirates freshman Caitlyn Rose had two saves. If the Bucks (0-3-1) are able to build on an 11-2-2 finish a year ago, there’s a possibility they could meet the Pirates (1-1) again on Oct. 16 for the GLC championship. The Pirates won the league last season and are a part of the new West Division in 2021 following the league’s expansion to 12 teams. The Bucks occupy the East Division.
“(This win) is a huge confidence booster,” Byall said. “We wanted to come in, prove what we’re made of and how we can play together as a team, score goals, all of that. I think we showed them that we’ve improved.”
The Pirates have another big matchup on tap, as they’ll play defending Div. II state champion Mansfield Madison – the team that knocked them out of last year’s state semifinal – on Sept. 6 as part of Warsaw Riverview’s Labor Day Soccer Showcase. The game is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
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