Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Dougherty, Adams lead Independence to regional championship game

RAVENNA—The Independence Blue Devils felt right at home in beating Warren JFK on the blue turf at Ravenna’s Portage Community Bank Stadium in a Division III regional semifinal on Tuesday.

Molly Dougherty scored two goals and Alex Adams added one to lead the Blue Devils to the regional championship game for the first time in school history.

“It’s really cool,” Independence coach Bryan Less said of reaching the Elite Eight. “We had never made it to a district final before and now we’re in a regional final. We’re going to play a good Kirtland squad but you never know what’s going to happen.”

Independence (14-3-3) earned a rematch with two-time defending state runner-up Kirtland in Saturday’s regional final. That game will be played at a time and location to be determined.

The Hornets won the regular-season matchup, 3-1.

“We will play the game to our strengths,” Less said.

Those strengths were evident in the win over Warren JFK.

The Blue Devils possessed the ball for nearly 70 minutes, dominated shots on goal and spread the ball around to get several different players clear shots on goal.

That’s where the Blue Devils must improve moving forward.

Riccela DiGeronimo peppered the Warren JFK with shot after shot in the first half but the Blue Devils had nothing to show for it until Dougherty finished off a fast break with 3:07 left in the half.

“I told them at halftime, we played a good first half, not great,” Less said. “Of our seven playoff halves, I ranked it as sixth. It was good, but it wasn’t great. I thought we came out in the second half and really dominated.”

Dougherty picked up in the second half where she left off in the third.

She smoked one ball just over the crossbar and came back 30 seconds later and beat the keeper with a pretty move to drive the ball into the left corner for a 2-0 lead with 35:39 remaining in the game.

“Molly helped finish off a couple of breakaways,” Less said. “That’s what really sealed the game. Once we got that second one in, we knew we weren’t going to lose.”

Adams closed out the scoring with 15:16 left to play.

“Their only runs were fast breaks,” Less said. “Other than that, the ball barely left our side of the field. We put in an early goal and Alex had another goal. We had another couple of good opportunities and could have had six or seven others but that’s part of our game. We shoot a lot, we don’t always finish well.”

Independence’s defense was as stingy as ever in recording its eighth shutout of the season. The Blue Devils have allowed just one goal in four postseason games and five goals total in their last 10 contests.

“We made some moves,” Less said of a shakeup in the defensive third. “Marisa Silvestro has never played defense in her life until about eight games ago. She’s doing a nice job in the back. Our game plan was not to let their best player score. We stopped that and shut them down. They did a really nice job.”

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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