Kirtland scored three second half goals to defeat host Wickliffe on Tuesday, 3-2, in what could be a preview of a postseason matchup.
Wickliffe led 1-0 at halftime but the Hornets scored the next three goals to take control of the game. The Blue Devils added a late goal to close out the scoring.
“We’ve never played well there,” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac. “We’ve never lost to them but when I go back and look at when we play at their place, it’s 1-0, 2-1. It’s always a close game. I think a lot of that has to do with the size of the field but we just don’t play well when we go to Wickliffe.”
Melanie Tennant scored on a corner kick to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead midway through the first half.
That lead help up until Kirtland made some adjustments at halftime.
“It takes us a half to get used to the field,” Bradac said. “We’re so used to a field that’s 70 yards wide and this one is 53 but that’s no excuse. I told the girls at halftime that I know they’re frustrated but we couldn’t play the ball straight through the middle. We had to push it out wide and when we did that we opened things up.”
Kirtland’s first two goals of the second half came off corner kicks from Maya Zovko. Mia Rini was in the right place at the right time to finish off both set pieces.
“Maya played the ball beautifully to the back post and Mia Rini goes up and scores,” Bradac said. “Five minutes later it was the same exact situation. Maya plays the ball to the back post and Mia goes up and scores.”
Erika Zschuppe scored her 23rd goal of the season later in the half to make it 3-1.
Wickliffe’s Jenna Melaragno added a late goal for the Blue Devils.
“This is an encouraging performance from our team going into the end of the season, with playoffs right around the corner,” said Wickliffe coach Steve Gribovicz. “Of course, we would have liked the outcome to be in our favor but Kirtland is an experienced team from their deep runs the past few years. We are headed in the correct direction.”
Kirtland improved to 13-1 on the year while Wickliffe dropped to 11-2-1.
The Hornets and Blue Devils are assigned to the same Division III district and could meet in the postseason for the second straight year. Kirtland won in overtime last fall.
“I’m very proud of the effort and drive that our team played with tonight,” Gribovicz said. “I have a lot of well-deserved respect for Ed and Kirtland’s program and the past two games have been decided by one goal. We are right there in the games and the more our girls play together and gain experience in pressure situations, we will continue to grow as a team and program.”