To know the 2019 Westlake girls soccer team is to know that records, Division I tournament seedings and shot disparities don’t matter.
These Demons are tough, they’re cohesive and they’re still alive in the Elyria District.
Outshot 18-6 in a District semifinal match at third-seeded Amherst Monday night, the seventh-seeded Demons found just enough offense and resolve to pull out a 2-1 victory, their third tournament win in a row. They now move on to play top-seeded Strongsville at 7 p.m. in Thursday’s District final at Byers Field in Parma.
Blanked 4-0 by the Comets during a regular-season match in September, the Demons (11-4-4) went up 2-0 in the first 25 minutes and held strong the rest of the way. Junior Emma Jaros (13th minute) and senior captain Sami Jablonski (24th) scored a goal apiece.
“We’re pretty confident I would say, beating the two and three-seed in our bracket. That’s pretty awesome,” Jablonski said. “Making the District finals is pretty awesome. We’re so tough. We grew into our team this season. We lost to Amherst the last time we played them. We played (tonight) with passion but we weren’t hanging our heads. We got the first goal right from the start, which was huge.”
The Comets (11-4-3) held a 9-4 advantage in shots on goal for the night, but the Demons made their few opportunities count. Jaros put them ahead 1-0 when she fired home a shot off a Lydia Choban set piece. Eleven minutes after that, Jablonski pulled up from over 20 yards away and boomed a left-footed shot just over the reaching hands of Comets goalie Jill Card (two saves).
“Honestly, I just saw a chance and I took it,” Jablonski said of her shot.
Suddenly, the Comets were forced to press and play from behind, a position they weren’t used to being in as one of the top teams in the Southwestern Conference all season.
Junior midfielder Sydney Schaeffer got the Comets on the board less than 30 seconds after Jablonski’s goal, but countless promising chances sailed wide of the net as the game wore on. They attempted seven corner kicks to just one for the Demons and had seven shots stopped by sophomore goalie Lilly Voiklis, who had to dive on numerous occasions to swat away oncoming strikes.
Much like last Thursday’s dramatic 2-1 penalty kick upset of No. 2 Magnificat, Voiklis and the defense in front of her had to hang tough in the face of a more skilled offensive opponent. Once again, they passed the test.
“(Voiklis) was awesome tonight,” Jablonski said. “We needed her tonight — we needed everybody, obviously. But (Voiklis) came through. She’s young, but she doesn’t play like it.”
Demons coach Dane Rimko acknowledged that it wasn’t just the scoreline that was different from the teams’ first meeting, but also the way his girls played.
“The first time we played (Amherst) we got smoked, so we made some adjustments and the girls played how they’re supposed to,” Rimko said. “(The result) speaks for itself.”
Amherst took four of their nine shots on goal in the second half, all stopped by Voiklis. As it upped the pressure on the Westlake defense, the Demons came up with a number of clears in a row to frustrate the Comets and drain precious time off the clock. Voiklis made two saves in the 67th and 70th minutes, and the defense was able to stop a pair of Lexy Alston corner kicks in the final four minutes to help preserve the win.
“I’m sure the stats aren’t really the same, but credit to our girls, they played their butts off tonight,” Rimko said. “They’ve done everything I’ve ever asked them to do and I think all their hard work paid off tonight, for sure.”
The most successful class in Amherst girls soccer history played its final game on Monday. Alison, Card, Taylor Pogachar, Cameron Dumais, Anna Dudziak, Lydia Hebebrand and Regan Veard were senior leaders of a team that finished second in the SWC and held a cumulative 54-15 scoring edge over its opposition this season.
“Our seniors are the winningest four-year run in school history, and I can’t thank them enough,” Comets coach Gary Gonzalez said. “They mean a lot to me, and I’m sad to see them go.”
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