Regional final shutout sets new program mark

Twenty-two minutes into her team’s Division II regional final match on the sun-splashed turf of Richfield Revere’s Joseph F. Pappano Stadium, Rocky River goalie Sabrina Rick had a hunch a celebration was coming.

Granted, the Pirates girls soccer team still had 58 minutes to play last Saturday afternoon against the Minutemen. But when your defensive effort all over the field is as determined as the Pirates’ has been this season, confidence could be expected.

And once freshman Ava Patti’s goal put the Pirates ahead 1-0 in the 22nd minute, that was all the team needed. Rick, a senior and one of the team’s anchors, was right on the money.

Patti scored again late in the match, and the Pirates’ 2-0 victory assured them a trip to the Division II state semifinals, which were played last Tuesday at Medina against another state power in Mansfield Madison Comprehensive (19-0-3), the Division II runner-up last season. Results were unavailable at press time.

“It’s amazing,” Rick said. “We grew up with the 2013 team (that won the state title). We were at every game cheering them on, so just for us to do the same, it’s always been a goal of ours and we’re just happy it’s happening for us.”

The Pirates, still unbeaten at 19-0-2, made it a point to be the aggressors all over the field, jumping Revere (14-5-2) passing lanes, controlling possession and putting increasing pressure on the hosts’ back line to defend their multitude of threats.

Defensively, the Pirates held the Minutemen to two total shot attempts, neither of which were on-target. Both shots were from long distance and came 50 minutes apart.

“We defend in the back, we defend in the middle and we defend up top,” Pirates coach Patrick Hopkins said. “We’re a very strong defensive team, and we have this willingness to win the ball, and then when we win the ball we want to move forward.”

The shutout was Rocky River’s 15th of the season and broke the program’s single-season record of 14, which was previously held by the 2013 state championship team.

“For us to get that record is just another reassurance of our skill and our ability to do what they did and go all the way,” Rick said. “There’s so much pride (in shutting teams out). It’s a goal of ours just because we’ve played with each other for so long. Obviously, the main goal is to win, but to (win with shutouts) is amazing.”

In the attacking third, Revere faced a barrage of Rocky River attempts, with goalie Olivia Papouras grabbing nine saves. The Pirates totaled 23 shot attempts–11 on net–and took 13 corner kicks.

Patti broke the scoreless tie in the 22nd minute when she ran ahead of the defense and sent a shot past Papouras in the box. The play was set up by a perfect through-ball from senior center back Keira Vesy that cut through several defenders in the midfield and hit Patti in stride.

After several near-goals that were saved by Papouras in the second half, Patti found the back of the net again on a second chance play in the 79th minute. An open shot was blocked by Papouras, but Patti fought off a defender for the ball, turned around and fired it by the lunging keeper for an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

It was Patti’s second multi-goal game in the last week, following her two scores in the team’s district championship win over Copley.

“I had an amazing pass from Keira in the back, and that was just an easy one because it was such a nice pass,” Patti said. “The second (goal) came on a pass from my sister (senior Maya Patti), an amazing pass and I missed the shot, but I made sure not to stop and I just kept going until I got it.”

Now that the Pirates have reached the state level, one last goal remains: to try and catch the 2013 team that finished 22-0-1 and defeated Granville 3-1 to win a state title. Regardless of where they wind up, they’ve shown that the 2020 version is a special one in its own right.

“It’s a group that set high goals, and they just keep working for them,” Hopkins said. “We’re having fun. They have fun in every moment they’re together. It doesn’t matter if it’s practice, whatever, they’re always laughing, smiling, having a great time and just enjoying this ride.”

Contact this reporter at sports@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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