CHAGRIN FALLS—With a 3-1 win over host Chagrin Falls on Thursday, Kirtland claimed its first-ever Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division title.
The Hornets overcame an early 1-0 deficit to hand the Tigers their first league loss.
“This is now the fourth game we’ve given up that first goal but we’ve proven we have the ability to come back from that, whether it was Rocky River, whether it was West Geauga, and again it was against really good opponents,” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac.
Bella Dalessandro gave the Tigers (6-2-2 overall, 2-1-1 in league play) a 1-0 lead when she buried a free kick with 26:41 left in the first half.
That lead didn’t last long as Kirtland freshman Erika Zschuppe continued her assault on opposing goals.
She beat three Chagrin defenders then directed a precision shot into the left corner to tie the game with 24:14 left in the half.
Zschuppe has now scored 21 goals—including 13 in her last five games—and needs just four more to tie the school record for goals in a single season.
Bradac reinforced his game plan at halftime and the Hornets responded with a pair of second half goals to improve to 11-0 overall and 5-0 in the CVC.
“I felt coming in if we could score two goals on them we would have an opportunity to beat them,” Bradac said. “Our girls listened at halftime. We got caught up in what they were doing, which was a lot of balls over the top. I go, ‘That’s not how we play. We need to possess.’ You saw in the second half, I thought we were the better team possession-wise.”
Mia Rini’s breakaway pulled Chagrin keeper Aerin Krebs out of the net. Rini’s shot ricocheted off of Krebs and bounced back 10 yards to Lauren Lutz, who chipped the ball over the scrum at the top of the box and into the net for a 2-1 Kirtland lead with 20:49 left in the game.
“That second goal was awesome that they scored,” said Chagrin Falls coach Pam Malone. “Aerin comes out and makes a great save then we send it back out. The girl comes up and does a great volley into the back of the net. That was a great goal.”
Leah LaVerde closed out the scoring with 5:09 left in the game when she finished off a touch pass from Maya Zovko.
While the Hornets have their sights set on closing out league play with a win over Harvey on Oct. 4, they’re also looking forward to another deep run in the postseason and Thursday’s game provided them with a taste of playoff soccer.
“I think for this group, it’s a great experience,” Bradac said of playing in a big game against a quality opponent. “You know what was great, we didn’t put that ton of pressure on them. The question came up (on Wednesday), what are we going to do and who are we going to mark and what changes are we going to make? I’m like, we’re not making changes. We are the team that does not, in the past we probably have to make changes and bunker in and come in with a different mentality, but we have to attack.”
Chagrin Falls, meanwhile, won’t hang its heads following the tough loss.
The Tigers also have lofty postseason goals and this game provided them with an opportunity to improve.
“I thought it was a great game,” Malone said. “I’d rather play a game like this than a 7-0 really lopsided victory. We learned more about ourselves and postgame I told the players we’re growing every game and this was a good game for growth.”