Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Late goal lifts Independence over Berkshire

Independence senior Ashley Henderson hasn’t played a lot of soccer since tearing her ACL in the final game of the 2015 season, but she has been very productive in the limited minutes she has played in four games this fall.

Henderson’s goal with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left in the game lifted the Blue Devils to a 4-3 win over visiting Berkshire on Thursday on the Alumni Field turf inside Stan Skoczen Stadium.

Molly (Dougherty) shot an outside shot at the goalie and the goalie just kind of rebounded it so I just had to tap it in,” Henderson said.

Dougherty, a freshman, gave the Blue Devils an early lead when she took a cross from senior Julia Gutermuth and buried the ball into the right corner with 33:58 left in the first half.

Two minutes later, Gutermuth beat the Berkshire defense and made it 2-0.

Berkshire freshman Julia Landrus cut the Independence lead in half when she tapped in a goal with 28:08 left in the half. Amber Taraska’s header with 4:49 left sent the teams into the break in a 2-2 tie.

“It was exciting,” said Independence coach Bryan Less. “The girls battled. We kind of fell off a little bit in the first half. I didn't even really make an adjustment in the second half besides saying we’ve got to work hard and keep our heads in the game.”

Gutermuth took that message to heart and gave the Blue Devils a 3-2 lead with her second goal just five minutes into the second half. Dougherty sent a pretty pass to Henderson, who assisted on the goal.

Berkshire’s Joanne Miller converted a penalty kick with 17:28 left in the game to tie it at 3-3.

“We scored one early (in the second half) and took the lead,” Less said. “Unfortunately we had a call against us but that happens in soccer. It's a judgment call. The girls battled back. I put a couple girls in and we were moving and had the momentum and put one away to come out with the victory.”

Henderson and Gutermuth came off the bench with about six minutes left in the game and the Blue Devils went on the attack.

Dougherty, Gutermuth and Henderson all had shots on goal before Henderson’s final strike.

That goal was set up by Dougherty’s outside shot that Berkshire keeper Catherine Lillibridge dove at and blocked with her right hand. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, Henderson was in the right place at the right time to tap in the rebound.

After scoring just two goals in its first seven games, Independence has now scored six in its last two contests. That has a lot to do with the return of Henderson, who has teamed up with Gutermuth over the past three seasons, and the addition of several younger players—including Dougherty—who have stepped up to contribute.

“The big thing was it's a lot of freshmen and one junior who is in her first year in the program playing offense so it took them a while to get in tune with each other,” Less said. “When they're on, the passing is on point. We're going wide and then crossing the ball right back in. Except for Ashley's shot, the other three were crosses right to feet and we missed two or three more that we could have put away.”

Independence has now won two games in a row to improve to 2-4-3 on the year and 1-1-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.

“We're kind of rolling,” Less said. “We've got some nice momentum now. The defense did not play great tonight but they're going to have those games. The offense picked them up tonight. Early in the season it was all defense.”

Less cited junior Emily Reed and freshman Reni Kaiser for their efforts in the win.

“I thought Emily Reed played one heck of a game at defensive center mid,” he said. “Reni Kaiser also played real well with energy at forward and outside mid. She did a nice job.”

Berkshire dropped to 5-3 overall and 0-2 in the CVC.

Independence travels to Lake Ridge Academy on Tuesday while Berkshire travels to Conneaut.


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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