KIRTLAND– Kirtland head coach Ed Bradac didn’t take credit for drawing up the game-winning goal the Hornets scored 26 seconds into overtime of Monday’s Division III district semifinal against Wickliffe at Recreation Park.
That honor belonged to his players.
“Honestly, it wasn’t us,” Bradac said. “They came over and they were like, ‘Okay, let’s win this in overtime.’ Whether it was Lidia (Rodin) or Maya (Zovko) that said, ‘Get us the ball, we’re going to end the game,’ they were the confidence builders.”
It was Rodin who accepted a through ball from Katie McCollister in the left corner to set up Jenna Sayle’s game-winner in the early moments of extra time.
“Katie played me an awesome ball up the side and I just kind of dribbled around and had fun with it,” Rodin said. “I knew I had to loft it because Jenna is kind of tall. I kind of lofted it and I knew as soon as I hit it Jenna was going to get a foot on it, a head on it, she was going to put it away.”
Kirtland entered the game as the top-seed in the Gates Mills District and a 10-0 all-time record against Wickliffe. The Hornets had outscored the Blue Devils, 49-1, in those 10 meetings.
Nicole Carroscia made it 49-2 with her long-distance goal that gave the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead with 13:36 left in the first half.
“It was wind-aided and she just basically took one-touch from about 35 yards out and hit a well-struck ball,” Bradac said.
The Hornets responded five minutes later when a shift in the formation led to a game-tying goal from Lauren Lutz.
“We were in a little change in the midfield,” Bradac said. “We went ahead and pushed Lauren in. She was in the right place at the right time. She was winning a lot of balls for us on goal kicks and free kicks. She did an outstanding job for us tonight.”
The Blue Devils threatened several times on fastbreaks from leading scorer Anna Stjepanovic, but Maggie Kadas calmly chased down the ball to keep the tie intact.
“For me, panicking is where you make your most mistakes,” Kadas said. “If you’re calm and you just have enough confidence and you believe in yourself, just like our whole team does, you look where you’re going to go and you pass to where you want to go and it just works out.”
Wickliffe’s defensive-minded strategy paid off as the Hornets couldn’t break the tie in the second half, despite outshooting the Blue Devils in the game, 20-6.
Despite facing up to 10 players on the defensive end throughout the game, Bradac was confident the Hornets would have their chances in overtime.
“We told them we possessed the ball for probably 80-percent of this game, maybe even more than that, so don’t get frustrated because the shots will be there,” he said.
Rodin and Sayle made the most of the Hornets’ first opportunity in the extra time.
“I just saw Lidia going up on the left side, she’s obviously left-footed, I knew she was going to hit a great ball,” Sayle said. “I got in there and I just did my best to get my body on it and it went in. I was super excited. We’re so glad that didn’t last longer. We’re glad to go to our next game.”
Kirtland (11-4-3) advanced to Thursday’s district championship game against second-seeded Berkshire, which will be played at Cuyahoga Heights High School.