Thursday, December 7, 2023

Hornets close regular season with shutout

On Sunday, Kirtland’s girls’ soccer team was awarded the No. 1 seed in the Gates Mills Division III district tournament.

The Hornets went out and proved they deserved it a day later when they traveled to Wellington, the No. 2 seed in the Elyria District and left with a convincing 2-0 win.

Hannah Vouk scored her first goal of the season off a Leah LaVerde assist to give the Hornets an early lead and Maya Zovko notched her 17th later in the first half to close out the scoring.

“If you would have told me we’d be 9-4-3 playing the schedule we play and you were to tell me that Grace Powers isn’t going to score any goals for you and Hannah Vouk isn’t going to score a goal for you and Lidia Rodin isn’t going to score a single goal for you, I’d say where do I sign up?” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac. “Scoring-wise, we’re doing it with Maya, but tonight was the first night that they actually man-marked her. I’m just shocked that no one has done it until tonight and she still scored.”

Zovko has scored nearly half of Kirtland’s 36 goals this season, which allowed Bradac to move Vouk back into the midfield.

He switched the two at Wellington to counter the Dukes’ strategy.

“I was like, ‘OK, we’ll play this game. Maya, switch with Hannah. Hannah go to forward and Maya go to central mid,’” Bradac said. “That’s where Hannah got free and she scored our first goal.”

Zovko scored off of a direct kick.

“The committed a foul on us just outside the top of the 18 and Maya just stepped back, they tried to set the wall up but she’s smart enough to say, OK, you guys can do what you want but I’m taking the shot.’ She took the shot and boom, 2-0,” Bradac said.

Gabby Culotta and Kirtland’s defense did their part to secure the win.

Culotta recorded six saves, including one on a penalty kick. It was her second PK save in four games.

“Saving the PK was an amazing feeling,” Culotta said. “It can be very stressful because of the chances against the keeper, but when you save them you have so much relief and confidence. I saved my first of the season against Cuyahoga Heights and that save gave me the confidence I needed to save the PK today.”

That wasn’t her only highlight reel save of the day.

“She had two, the penalty kick and she saved another goal,” Bradac said. “She reached up for it and pinned it against the crossbar. That was an incredibly athletic move.”

The shutout was the ninth of the season for the Hornets.

“My defense is amazing,” Culotta said. “They allow me to feel much more comfortable in the back. They move the ball great and are very smart about how to play their offenders. I definitely give them a lot of credit in our shutouts and wins.”

Kirtland will spend the next nine days preparing to host the winner of the Beachwood-Pymatuning Valley sectional semifinal. The sectional championship game will be played at Kirtland Recreation Park on Oct. 19 at 4:30 p.m.

“We’re going to get nine days off, but that’s kind of advantage,” Bradac said. “We have 22 girls that will come to practice and challenge each other. I think sometimes our practices are as good as our games; the level of competition.”

Steve Hare
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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