INDEPENDENCE—Riccela DiGeronimo’s early goal proved to be the difference in Independence’s 1-0 win over visiting Berkshire at Stan Skoczen Stadium on Thursday.
DiGeronimo scored off a free kick in the eighth minute and Independence’s defense did the rest in handing the Badgers their first Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division loss in two years.
“It’s always good to come out strong and get an early lead,” said Independence coach Bryan Less. “I thought the first half was one of the better halves we played all season. In the second half, I think it was a combination of Berkshire playing a little better and we were kind of on our heels but the defense did really well in the second half. We had just enough possession to help run out the clock. It was a quality game.”
DiGeronimo’s goal, her eighth of the season, was perfectly placed in the upper left-hand corner of the goal.
Berkshire had its best opportunity to tie the score when Clara Agawa lined up for a penalty kick with 26:45 left in the game.
Agawa tried to beat Independence keeper Reni Kaiser to the left corner but Kaiser made the play to preserve the shutout.
The PK save was the second for Kaiser in her last three games and third of the season.
“This is why we play a tough schedule and quality opponents,” Less said. “On Saturday, she saved a PK against Brecksville and they also had another one they missed, so this was nothing new for her. That’s why we play good teams so in crunch time we already know what to expect.”
Berkshire pressured the Blue Devils for the final eight minutes but Independence’s defense was up to the challenge.
“It seemed like our offense really couldn’t find a groove tonight,” said Berkshire coach Ian Patterson. “Every time we tried to play over the top we played right into their feet or right into their chest. If they had one defender backed it seemed like we were playing right to them instead of us.”
The loss was the second straight for the Badgers, who entered the week without a regular season setback in 24 straight games.
Warren JFK beat the Badgers on Monday, 2-1, to snap that streak and the Blue Devils ended Berkshire’s streak of 10-consecutive conference games without a loss. The last time the Badgers lost a league game was exactly two years ago, a 2-1 setback to Perry on Sept. 27, 2016.
“This is something that the girls are definitely not used to,” Patterson said of the back-to-back losses. “After Monday, they were kind of crying on the sideline. These are things they’re not familiar with. We went 16-0 last year and won two games in the district. It’s not familiar for them but that’s the next step for the program, they’ve got to learn how to take a loss and come back and play harder than ever. We didn’t do that tonight.”
Independence now controls its own destiny as the Blue Devils can win their first conference title with a victory at Beachwood on Oct. 4. With a draw, the Blue Devils would earn at least a share of the title with Wickliffe and Cuyahoga Heights if the Redskins beat Perry on Thursday.
“We really haven’t talked about it,” Less said. “It’s just one game at a time. Our next game is Monday. It’s not a conference game and that’s all we’re worried about for now. We’ll talk about (the CVC title) on Tuesday.”