Saturday, September 30, 2023

Kirtland advances to Elite Eight for third time in four seasons

SOLON—Six different players scored goals to lead Kirtland to a 9-0 win over South Range in a Division III regional semifinal at Stewart Field on Friday.

With the win, the Hornets advanced to the Elite Eight for the second straight season and third time in four years.

“It’s fun,” Kirtland coach Ed Bradac said. “Our girls work so hard and I know it’s such a cliché, but they really, truly do. Not only do they work hard but they actually really enjoy each other’s company and they have fun when they come here. We’re really blessed to have the kids that we have. For me, it’s an easy thing to come and do and I truly love what I do with them each and every day.”

Jenna Sayle scored the first of her two goals in the fifth minute off a Lidia Rodin cross. Erika Zschuppe made it 2-0 seven minutes later and Rodin scored the first of her two goals to push the lead to 3-0 with 24:11 left in the first half. Sayle made it 4-0 just over a minute later.

The Hornets led 4-0 at halftime.

“I think our conversation the last couple of days has been to put a complete game together from begin to end.” Bradac said. “We can’t wait 10 minutes and then start to play like we did against Cuyahoga Heights (in a 4-2 win in the district championship game) and some other teams. I said, ‘You have to be the aggressor and put pressure on them each time they touch the ball.’ That’s the stuff we worked on and that’s the stuff most coaches say.”

Rodin, Zschuppe, Lilia Valentic, Mia Rini and Maya Zovko added second-half goals to close out the scoring for the Hornets.

Zovko led the Hornets with three assists, Rodin finished with two and Leah LaVerde and Reilly Greenlee both assisted on one goal each.

“I love the fact we were trying to play wide as much as we could and that’s why we throw Lidia on the outside and we put Jenna on the other side, so you have left foot, right foot, and speed going down the side and then you throw Erika and Maya in the middle along with Lilia and Lauren (Lutz),” Bradac said. “It’s just such a nice thing to have.”

While Kirtland’s offense seemingly scored at will, the Hornets were stingy on defense.

South Range’s Bree Kohler entered the game with 33 goals scored in 20 games. The Hornets shut her down.

“We didn’t do anything special,” Bradac said. “We just recognized where she’s at. All season, our defense has proven time and time again that we’re solid. We don’t make a lot of mistakes. It’s a credit to those four girls who play in the back along with our goalie.”

Kirtland advanced to play Doylestown Chippewa in Saturday’s regional championship game at a location and time to be determined.

Chippewa used a late penalty kick to defeat the Hornets, 1-0, in a 2015 state semifinal.

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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