KIRTLAND—Kirtland graduated 10 seniors from the team that advanced to the Division III Final Four last fall but the Hornets aren’t exactly rebuilding.
It’s more like reloading.
Four different players scored a goal in the Hornets’ 4-0 win over visiting Perry in Kirtland’s season opener on Thursday.
“I want to think that we have developed a program that can withstand the graduation of seniors because of the type of kids that we have year in and year out,” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac. “There are 33 girls on this team. For a small school I think that is very impressive. The numbers do make a difference. It's better for practice and better for competition.”
Two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior were responsible for the goals.
Freshman Lidia Rodin scored the first goal of her varsity career with 27:38 left in the first half. That goal came just moments after a near miss.
She used her left foot to bury the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
“Lydia, whether we played summer league or we played in a tournament in Canfield, she pretty much scored in almost every game we have played,” Bradac said. “She is truly a very gifted freshman with a strong left foot. She's very good on set pieces. She just needs to develop that confidence, 'I'm a freshman but I can do this whether I'm a freshman or a senior.'”
Junior Hannah Vouk, one of the elder statesmen on the team, made it 2-0 10 minutes later.
Vouk has scored 60 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in her two-year varsity career and will be counted on to again be an offensive creator this season.
“As Hannah goes, we go, I think,” Bradac said. “She'll be that vocal leader. She's highly intelligent and highly athletic. She has great soccer skill and knowledge. I'm excited to see what she can do with this group.”
Sophomore Jenna Sayle made it 3-0 with 28:43 left in the second half when she headed in a loose ball.
That was the first goal of her varsity career and Bradac made sure to point it out to her.
“She’s just a great athlete,” he said. “That was actually her first goal ever. We kept joking about it, she scored in a scrimmage and I was like, 'Hey, that's the first goal you ever scored.' She played substantial minutes as a freshman so I went back and looked at her stats and I'm like, 'That literally was the first goal you ever scored and I'm not sure what I saw in you,' and she laughed. She has the confidence now that I didn't see in her last year so I'm excited.”
Freshman Lilia Valentic closed out the scoring three minutes later.
Valentic has developed a rapport with Vouk, creating a dynamic duo up top for the Hornets.
“She's playing one of the most difficult positions we can ask her to play, center mid, along with Hannah,” Bradac said. “We made that switch and we're able to make that switch because Lindsay Ward we moved back to stopper and she just wins balls. That helps us immensely. That frees Lilia up to play center mid and her and Hannah work well together.”
Kirtland graduated its entire defense, including all-everything goal keeper Maddie Zuberer. The replacements pitched a shutout in their first game.
“We won't draw comparisons,” Bradac said. “We won't say, 'You're like this player or that player from last year. We've moved on. We have to move on. We basically point out the fact that last year as a JV team we only gave up seven goals and some of those girls are now playing on our varsity.”
Junior Gabby Culotta recorded four saves in her first career win in the net.
Rodin, Vouk and Ward all had an assist in the game.
Kirtland hosts Akron Manchester on Saturday.