Game by game, half by half, the Rocky River girls soccer team started accomplishing its 2019 goals.
Win the Great Lakes Conference? Check. The outright league title was clinched Oct. 9.
Win 10 games? Check. The Pirates hit that mark Oct. 12.
Earn a No. 1 seed in the Division II Elyria District and win a tournament game? Check and check, as of Oct. 17.
After a 2-1 victory Thursday night over Medina Buckeye at North Ridgeville’s Ranger Stadium, the Pirates added a District championship to their list.
Trailing 1-0 early in the first half, junior Maya Patti and senior Samantha Miller each scored during a wild five-minute stretch, then the team held on the rest of the way to notch its first District crown since its 2013 State championship season.
“This is a great group to coach,” Pirates coach Patrick Hopkins said. “I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun with them. And they have the confidence that they’re going to create the opportunities (to score). Over our last five or six games we’ve been going really well. … Our next goal is to win the next game and, to break it down even further, win the next half.”
The two teams entered Thursday’s match having allowed a combined 25 goals all season, creating an expectation that scoring chances were going to be hard to come by. However, the first 15 minutes showcased wide-open play.
The second-seeded Bucks (14-4-1) got on the scoreboard in the 7th minute when Lauren Petrovich’s shot sailed over Pirates goalie Sabrina Rick (five saves) and settled into the back of the net. But Patti answered just three minutes later. A pushing call inside the Bucks’ box on Emma Rzicznek against Taylor Byall in the 12th minute led to a penalty kick for Miller, which she buried in the left corner of the net past Alexa Atlasy (two saves) for the 2-1 lead.
“Coming into this game, we were very confident because we’d beaten Buckeye during the season (1-0 on Sept. 4),” Patti said. “We came in all excited for the game, so once we got down (1-0) we knew we had to calm down and keep playing our game,”
The teams settled down by the midway point of the half, and promising looks were fewer and further between. The Bucks outshot the Pirates 6-4 on goal and tied at nine total shots apiece. Buckeye applied a wave of pressure in the game’s final 10 minutes, generating four shots, but Rick came up with a pair of saves and two others sailed just over the crossbar.
It was a tough outcome for a talented Buckeye team that finished one game behind Rocky River (13-5-2) in the GLC standings during a largely successful season.
“I’m extremely pleased with our girls,” Bucks coach Derrick Gullen said. “It wasn’t a one-star show for us this year. It was a total team effort, which was great to have. We played together.”
Once the Pirates survived the Bucks’ final charge, it was time to collect their medals and pose with the District championship plaque for the first time in six years. It was their third consecutive District final, and the win was sweeter after coming up short to arch-rival Bay the previous two years.
“I think we’re all excited as a team,” Miller said. “The last couple years we’ve gotten to this point and lost, so especially for the senior class, we feel like we’ve accomplished so much in these years.”
Now, the Pirates wait. Their Region 6 semifinal will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday at a to-be-determined location. They’ll face the winner of Saturday afternoon’s Lexington District final between top seed Mansfield Madison — the second-ranked team in the state in Div. II — and third-seeded Ontario. That game is set to begin at 2 p.m.
No matter who they line up against, the Pirates are ready to check more boxes in a season to remember.
“We definitely just want to take it game by game,” Patti said. “We’d like to win Regionals, then go to States and go all the way. … I for sure do (feel we have momentum right now).”
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