INDPENDENCE—The Independence girls’ soccer team opened the 2017 Division III sectional tournament with a convincing 7-0 win over visiting Conneaut at Alumni Field at Stan Skoczen Stadium on Monday.
The postseason win was the first for the Blue Devils since a 3-1 win over Columbia in a sectional championship game in 2014.
“That was our first postseason home game and playoff win in a while,” said Independence coach Bryan Less. “The girls are growing and they’re getting better but we still have some things to work on. They put in a nice match today.”
After seven scoreless minutes, freshman Riccela DiGeronimo ricocheted a laser shot off the post.
The Blue Devils didn’t hang their heads at the missed opportunity and instead went on to score seven goals in a 21-minute span to seal the win before halftime.
“We kept pushing,” Less said. “It wasn’t just Riccela. Paige Westerburg, our other freshman forward, they have a lot pressure back there because forward is a pressure-filled position. You’re one-on-one with the goalie, so you make the play or you don’t.”
Erin Zygmunt found the back of the net shortly after DiGeronimo’s miss to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead with 31:40 left in the first half.
DiGeronimo finished off an assist from Molly Dougherty two minutes later and Dougherty added a goal with 27:26 left in the half to push the Independence lead to 3-0. Makenna McGhee assisted on Dougherty’s shot.
Westerburg made it 4-0 four minutes later off Dougherty’s second assist and Jasmine Harb punched one in with 13:35 to go.
Marissa Silvestro scored the final two goals of the game on assists from Christina Brunsman and DiGeronimo.
“I thought the forwards had a nice game and Molly and Erin had really nice games at center mid,” Less said. “Rachel Belitz did a really nice job of controlling the ball and distributing it from the center back.”
Defensively, the Blue Devils made it difficult for the Spartans to mount any type of attack.
Reni Kaiser recorded one save in recording her third shutout of the season.
“The defense did a really nice job,” Less said. “We are working on communicating and intensity. We had some slipups in communication where our two center backs were going at the same ball at the same time, but we did a lot better today with communicating. There was a lot of talking, especially in the first half when the game was still in balance and the intensity was up.”
The Blue Devils, who improved to 9-6-1, advanced to Thursday’s sectional championship game at third-seeded Grand Valley. The Mustangs enter the game 15-0-1 on the year.