Thursday, September 21, 2023

Blue Devils cruise to win in sectional semifinal

Independence had little trouble defeating Villa Angela-St. Joseph earlier this season. Tuesday’s sectional semifinal was a bit more competitive but the result was similar.

Evan Collins scored a pair of goals and Dan Malarik and Dawid Bratko each netted one to lead the No. 4 Blue Devils to a 4-1 win over the No. 10 Vikings.

“We got the first playoff win out of the way,” said Independence first-year coach Ryan MacRaild. “VASJ came out fired up and tried to play us a little harder than in the first game we played them. They played a little tougher. They were fired up for the playoffs. They were going hard for the ball.”

Malarik scored about six minutes into the game to give the Blue Devils the early lead.

“It was one of those goals where the forwards really worked together,” MacRaild said. “They outhustled the backs and connected to put it in.”

Early in the second half Collins scored on a penalty kick to push the Blue Devil lead to 2-0.

VASJ’s Flint Porter cut that lead in half when he split the Independence defense and found the back of the net.

“They had a real fast kid up to and they kept aiming for him and he broke through once and got a goal,” MacRaild said. “For the most part we kept them under control.”

Bratko scored off a corner kick and Collins finished off one of two assists from Kevin Mewhinney to close out the scoring.

“We got back to our style of soccer in the second half and took control,” MacRaild said.

Nolan Fields and Collins both had assists and Joe Bernstein recorded three saves in goal.

With the win, Independence improved to 14-2-1. The Blue Devils have won five straight and are 12-0-1 in their last 13 games.

That streak will be put to the test on Saturday when the Blue Devils meet No. 3 Oberlin for the sectional title at 2:00 p.m.

“Since the tournament draw they haven’t played a game so they’re going to be fresh and I’m sure they probably got out to see one of our games,” MacRaild said. “There will be no secrets to keep. It’s just a matter of if we can battle through and stick to the game plan and play our style of soccer against a good team.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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