KIRTLAND—A freshman stole the spotlight in Chagrin Falls’ 1-0 win at Kirtland in a battle of state-ranked teams on Wednesday.
Bella Radomski broke the scoreless tie with 34:53 remaining in the contest to lift the Tigers, ranked No. 8 in Division II, to the win over Kirtland, who is ranked No. 2 in Division III.
“That’s awesome because we’re trying to fill those spots, keep fresh legs out there at the wing position and she stepped up,” said Chagrin Falls co-coach Pamela Malone. “That’s actually her second goal of this season. She had another one where she just finished perfectly back post. She has some freshman jitters but tonight she’s our game-winner.”
It was a big win for the Tigers, who improved to 5-1-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.
“It’s a really nice win,” Malone said. “One, because it’s a conference victory. Two, Kirtland always has an outstanding program, always has an outstanding team. Three, this is the only game we’re going to play on grass and it does change your game a little bit. It’s not physically; mentally it changes their game. So, to get a win here, on this field against Kirtland, the defending state champs for Division III, it was a great win.”
Chagrin Falls is now 6-2-1 against the Hornets all time, but those wins haven’t come easily.
For Kirtland, the 1-0 loss was a setback in terms of winning the conference title, but the Hornets have their sights set on defending their state title, and playing competitive games against quality opponents is part of that process.
“I think against that team, probably one of the better ones we’ll face this year, it’s a good result,” said Kirtland acting head coach Ivica Miljak. “I thought we possessed the ball very well. We struggled to generate dangerous chances around the box when we got there, but we kept the ball on our half for heavy stretches.”
Moral victories aside, the Hornets had their opportunities but Chagrin Falls’ defense was up to the challenge.
Kirtland’s Erika Zschuppe, the reigning Ohio Division III Player of the Year, slipped through a few cracks but the Tigers quickly recovered and protected their net.
“I think our defense is very strong,” said Chagrin Falls co-coach Joe Ciuni. “I think we did a great job. We just faced one of the top players in the state regardless of division and obviously, she was our main focus. The girls did a fantastic job of defending the numbers mentality and they did that. I don’t think we gave her really a free moment, maybe one in the first half, but we were able to kind of escape that moment and buckled down from there.”
The Hornets also played well on the defensive end in limiting Chagrin Falls to just a handful of shots. The Tigers entered the game averaging over three goals per game.
Radomski’s second-half goal-scoring opportunity originated off of a defensive play that turned into a breakaway on the other side.
“We’ve been talking about the counterattacks this season and I think it was kind of made by Alex Chinnichi there,” Ciuni said. “Her patience on the ball to let the run fill the channel and then she played a perfect ball through. Bella made a great first touch, not too far, not too soft, so she can keep it in stride, and then slotted home near post on the finish. It was nice.”
Kirtland used the loss as an opportunity to improve as a team and that starts with the younger Hornets developing the confidence to attack the net.
“I think they know that we have a player who could do anything for us but a lot of times they expect her to so we’re trying to shift that thinking a little bit,” Miljak said. “She trusts her teammates and we trust them all so they have to start knowing that they can take a little bit of responsibility on their shoulders as well.”
Freshman keeper Kennedy Boyd played a solid game, despite allowing the Radomsky goal.
“Kennedy is growing day by day,” Miljak said. “She’s going to be a heck of a keeper. She is learning quickly and she has the profile for that position. We have full confidence in her.”
Kirtland dropped to 4-1-2.