In a contest between the top two girls soccer teams in the Southwestern Conference, where a victory would have all but clinched the conference title for either team, players and fans alike were kept in suspense for all 80 minutes.
After a 17th-minute goal (Olivia Lopez) from the conference-leading Amherst Comets opened the scoring, it took second-place North Ridgeville just 15 minutes before senior transfer Mady Rosado found an equalizer that bounced off the hands of keeper Jill Card.
And that was the end of the scoring.
“I’m a goalkeeper coach and you hate to see the young lady have something like that where maybe she should’ve made the save,” North Ridgeville coach Chris Moore said. “But we had kind of an own-goal bounce down here. The soccer gods, they’re cruel on both ends, I guess.”
Despite a second-half filled with Comet opportunities (14 shots, nine on goal), the Rangers defense and goalie Alexis Klingerheber (14 total saves, nine in the second half) fended off the attacks to turn that 1-1 scoreline final.
“Defensively tonight, they did a great job,” Moore said. “We had a gameplan coming in. Defensively, they work well together, they communicate well together, I got a player back from an injury so I could sub a little bit. Keeping them fresh tonight was huge for us.”
Though North Ridgeville (10-3-1, 5-2-1 SWC) had just three shots in the first half (two on goal), the three it had in the second half (all on goal) nearly broke the tie in the waning minutes. A winded Rosado said that, even after struggling to sustain an offense in the first half and most of the second half, she and her team had no intention of letting off the gas.
“We just honestly go as hard as we can,” Rosado said. “This is just a really big game and we knew it. We knew we had to bring it and we worked our hardest.”
For nearly 70 minutes, Amherst (8-3-3, 5-1-2 SWC) dominated possession thanks, in part, to its aggressive pace of play. Anytime the Rangers got the ball into their attacking zone, it seemed there was a Comet defender one step ahead to halt the attack and create offense of their own.
In the final 10 minutes, though, something clicked for the Rangers.
It started with a Taylor Wohleber free kick attempt in the 69th minute that required a perfect save from Card (four saves) to keep it out of the net. In the 76th and 77th minutes, Ridgeville created two promising runs; the second nearly ending in a Rosado goal that was mere feet right of the net.
“They’re a good team. They’ve got some excellent players so credit them for that,” Amherst coach Gary Gonzalez said. “To keep them away from their goal for 80 minutes is really, really difficult because they’re pretty talented.”
After the game, Gonzalez was visibly disappointed that his team wasn’t able to capitalize on the numerous opportunities they had. In all, the Comets took 23 shots (15 on goal).
“The attack was there tonight. We had plenty of chances,” Gonzalez said. “If you don’t put ‘em in, they don’t count. Doesn’t matter what you do, it’s gotta go across that line.”
With the draw, Amherst remains ahead of North Ridgeville in the SWC standings with one conference game left to play for each team. However, because third-place Berea-Midpark beat Midview Oct. 2, the Titans jumped both the Rangers and the Comets with a 10-2-0 (6-2-0 SWC) record.
“The cruel part is, Berea will leapfrog both of us,” Moore said. “Both us (and Amherst) beat them. So it is what it is. In the end, this is a tough, tough conference. They’re a great team, Gary’s a great coach and the girls came to play on both sides tonight which I awesome.”
The Titans girls soccer team could secure the SWC crown tonight with a victory against North Olmsted. For Ridgeville to win the conference, it would have to beat Lakewood at home tonight and both Amherst (@ Avon) and Berea-Midpark would have to lose.
Regardless of the conference outcome, Rosado and the Rangers are confident in each other and are hoping for a deep run in the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s honestly really pushed us,” Rosado said of the Amherst game. “Even though it was a tie and that wasn’t what we wanted, we wanted to win, the fact that we put our heart out on the field and this is the result – we’re ready for the playoffs. We’re just going to keep giving it our all and see what happens.”
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