Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Independence wins sectional title

Independence opened the post-season on Saturday with a 7-0 win over visiting Horizon Science Academy in a Division III sectional championship game.

Sam Belitz scored three goals and Christian Seif, Nathan Wells, Wyatt Kunevicius and Adam Liebal each contributed with one to lead the second seeded Blue Devils into Tuesday’s district semifinal against No. 5 Elyria Catholic on their home turf.

“It was ideal to start off with a good win and establish some momentum for going into the next match,” Belitz said. “On offense we worked very efficiently and created some great chances with our teamwork.”

Wells also had a pair of assists in the win while Tim Marcinko had one.

Seif opened the scoring in the second minute.

“It was very important to us to get off to a fast start,” he said. “We had to make sure to set the tempo and make a statement and we hope to carry this momentum on throughout the post-season.”

Belitz made it 2-0 four minutes later and Wells quickly found the net to make it 3-0. Kunevicius pushed the lead to 4-0 and Liebal scored midway through the half to push the lead to 5-0.

Head coach Ryan MacRaild inserted his backups and the Blue Devils took that lead into the break. Belitz punched in two early second half goals to close out the scoring.

“Lately, we've been emphasizing staying wide and playing through the wings,” Seif said. “That's when we're most dangerous. Also, our forwards, Nate and Wyatt, have been great at putting pressure on the opposing defense using their speed and strength and forcing them to make mistakes.”

Tyler Korecko recorded six saves and Ethan Manelski had two, one on a penalty kick, to record Independence’s 10th shutout of the season.

The Blue Devils improved to 14-1-2 overall.

They host Elyria Catholic (9-8-1) for the second time this season. Independence won the regular season match, 4-1, back on Sept. 22. This time, a berth in the district championship game is on the line.

“We have to treat Elyria Catholic like any other game,” Seif said. “By that, I mean bring the intensity and play your heart out right from the start. We can't think about the results of our last game. That's not going to take us anywhere. They're going to be hungry and they're going to throw everything they've got at us. Our coaches will do a good job preparing us for that though.”

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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