KIRTLAND—Evan Dures scored four goals to lead Kirtland to a 4-2 win over Cornerstone Christian in a Division III district semifinal at Recreation Park on Tuesday.
The visiting Patriots scored an early goal, which forced the Hornets to play from behind in advancing to a second straight district championship game.
“It was a good response to a playoff atmosphere, a good team, and a back and forth game,” Kirtland coach John Valentic said. “What we need to improve on is trying to set the tone and dictate the pace and tone of the game to our liking and standard. Sometimes you can’t control that, the fans and the environment take over, so it was good to get this out of our system as we go into bigger games.”
Cornerstone Christian fielded a loose ball in front of the Kirtland goal and turned it into a 1-0 lead just 10 minutes into the game.
Kirtland had several scoring opportunities of its own leading up to the Patriots’ goal but failed to convert. They experienced a similar fate in losses to Andrews-Osborne and Geneva earlier this season, so Kirtland’s response was especially critical in this win or go home contest.
Dures, who entered the game with just two goals, scored the equalizer six minutes later on an outstanding individual effort to squeeze between a pair of defenders while also getting enough on his shot to beat the Cornerstone keeper.
Peter Vukovic nearly gave the Hornets a one-goal lead late in the first half but his shot sailed just high of the open net.
Kirtland dominated possession in the first 18 minutes of the second half but each scoring attempt was thwarted either by the play of Cornerstone keeper Dakota Shandle or an unfortunate bounce off a post.
“We lost to (Andrews) like that and Geneva,” Valentic said of the trouble finishing at the net. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and the ball won’t go in the net. The resilience and optimism we showed to keep going at it was encouraging. Hopefully, we can keep doing that as we go forward.”
Dures finally punched one in for a 2-1advantage with 22:20 remaining in the game. Three minutes later, Dures notched the hat trick by adding a much-needed insurance goal.
The Patriots responded 33 seconds later to cut Kirtland’s lead to 3-2.
Dures closed out the scoring a minute and a half later.
“That was not out of character for him,” Valentic said of Dures. “He is a fantastic finisher and he has great technique and that’s half the battle. He puts it on the frame and he has power behind the shot. His technique really helped him out. He’s a huge asset for us.”
Josip Mijic-Barisic and Vukovic both recorded a pair of assists in the win and Tyler Banyasz finished with three saves.
Kirtland advanced to Saturday’s district championship game at a location to be determined where they will see Andrews-Osborne in a rematch of the Sept. 3 game won by Andrews, 2-1.