Independence earned an important draw at Lutheran West on Monday.
The 1-1 tie sends a message to the rest of the Division III district that the Blue Devils can compete with the rest of the field.
“Lutheran West was ranked last week in the state poll at No. 9,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “Maybe that tie increases our stock a little bit. Maybe D3 (district) becomes a little more interesting because we've got Kirtland, Lutheran West, Beachwood, us. That's some pretty decent soccer. Not to mention Wellington. They're playing real well right now. It's going to be a very interesting post-season.”
Last year, Columbia was loaded with seniors and went on to win the district title over the Blue Devils. This year, Lutheran West has nine senior starters, compared to just three for Independence.
“Whether you put any value in that, there's definitely a difference in experience level, size and strength,” MacRaild said. “Those come into play when you play in close games.”
It couldn’t get any closer than Monday’s non-conference game against the Longhorns.
Trailing 1-0, Wyatt Kunevicius scored the equalizer off a pass from Nate Wells.
“We were coming down the middle with the ball and got stopped,” MacRaild said. “We kind of popped it up over in his direction. It bounced and there was basically a three-way collision between the goalie, the defender and Wyatt. He came out with the ball. The goalie took out his own defender and Wyatt came away with it and pushed it into the net on the second try. It was pretty gutsy.”
Tyler Korecko recorded 10 saves to preserve the draw.
“He had some big saves down toward the end of the match,” MacRaild said. “He made a couple good diving saves. He kept the ball in his hands. Eventually we got back to even and he kept it that way. Hats off to Tyler. He works hard in practice and he had a really good day making some game-changing saves.”
Independence (8-1-1 overall) hosts Elyria Catholic on Thursday in a non-conference matchup then travels to Kirtland on Tuesday for a key league game.