Saturday, January 28, 2023

Kirtland advances to fourth straight district final

Kirtland is headed back to the Division III district championship game for the fourth straight season.

Sanjay Sundararajan notched a hat trick while Stjepan Mijic-Barisic, Ante Bevanda and Jared Ianiro each contributed with a goal to lead the Hornets to a 6-1 win over visiting Wickliffe in Tuesday’s district semifinal.

The Hornets beat the Blue Devils, 2-0, back on Sept. 6 at Wickliffe but benefitted from playing on their home field, which is wider than the pitch at Wickliffe.

2016 B 2-1
2015 K 2-1
2015 B 6-1**
2014 B 6-1
2014 B 2-1**
2013 B 2-0
2013 K 4-1*
2012 B 5-3
2011 K 2-0
2010 T 2-2
2009 K 4-2
2008 B 2-1
2007 K 1-0
2006 B 4-1
2005 T 2-2
2004 T 0-0
Beachwood 8-5-3

“It was overall a solid performance from everybody,” said Kirtland coach John Valentic. “I think what really helped us was the size of the field, getting some width. I think we could be a little bit more dangerous than we were on a narrow field at Wickliffe, but you've still got to come and play and perform and we did.”

In addition to his goal, Mijic-Barisic assisted on four other scores.

“Great job by Pepo with four assists,” Valentic said. “He did what we needed him to do. He got around the back and was serving the ball and luckily we put them away.”

Pepo now leads the Hornets with 47 points this season off 14 goals and a team-high 19 assists.

“I think everything was working for not just me, but my team,” he said. “Most of our goals began from the defenders staying composed, finding the midfielders and forwards.”

Ianiro added to his team-high 17 goals and Sundararajan now has 13 goals on the season.

“I thought we moved the ball a lot which helped as a forward because it gives you more time on the ball and more opportunities to score,” Sundararajan said. “Also, the unselfishness and talent of our players really created all of my goals.”

The Hornets will play Beachwood in the district championship game on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at Korb Field on the campus of Brush High School.

This will be the third straight meeting between the Hornets and Bison in the district championship game and the eighth head-to-head match-up for each school’s senior class.

The Bison hold a 5-2 advantage over the past four seasons, including a 2-1 mark in the postseason. Beachwood defeated the Hornets, 2-1, earlier this season and 6-1 and 2-1 in the last two district championship games.

“We lost 2-1 to them earlier in the year,” Valentic said. “It was obviously a close game so it really comes down to do we come out mentally and do we come out and play the way we can play? I think it's a toss-up game. They're the No. 1 seed and the favorite so do we respond? Do we have some answers for them because they are very good.”

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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