Three of a kind

WARREN – Following John F. Kennedy’s 4-0 loss to Cardinal Mooney on Wednesday at Paul Esposito Memorial Soccer Field, Eagle girls soccer coach Billy Roberts marveled at the finishing touch of the Cardinals.

In fact, he didn’t wait until the end of the game to remark about it.

“They have a couple kids that really finish well,” Roberts said. “(Assistant coach) Katie (Myers) and I were talking on the sidelines – that’s their forte. They have two kids that can get the ball in the net, there’s no doubt about that.”

Roberts and the Eagles allowed just two players – a hat-trick by sophomore Elizabeth Philibin and the other goal by junior Lexy Herman – to score Wednesday, but Mooney (8-3-1) has proven to be an offensive juggernaut all season long, carried by three players – Philibin, Herman and senior Julie Vazquez. Of the Cardinals’ 69 goals scored and 59 assists through 12 matches, those three attacking players have combined for 63 goals and 50 assists.

Mooney coach Frank Sikich said the trio has meshed as the season’s progressed.

“They’re reading off each other very well,” Sikich said. “As the season has gone along here, they are anticipating one another where earlier in the season, they were half step off each other. They’re coming together at the proper time of the season which is right before the playoffs. We just got to get them to play a little bit faster, and I think it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop us in the district.”

Whoever does most of the scoring depends on the match, and in the win against Kennedy (7-3-1), it was Philibin’s turn to blow up.

The sophomore winger scored twice in a 4-minute span early in the first half. It started when she dribbled in from the right wing to beat Kennedy goalkeeper Liz Kellar at the near post in the 14th minute and ended when Herman sent a through ball to get Philibin cutting behind the defense in the 17th minute. Philibin added the third goal in the 42nd minute, pouncing on a defensive mistake in the box before placing the ball into the left side of the net.

Philibin said she can play more centrally, but her speed makes her a threat on the outside.

“It depends on who we’re playing,” said Philibin, whose goal total increased to 16 after the hat-trick. “If we need my speed outside, then I’ll go outside, but if we need to connect passes, I’ll be in the middle.”

Both Philibin and Sikich pointed to the play of attacking midfielder Vazquez as a reason she had success vs. the Eagles – and for much of the season.

Vazquez, who has already committed to playing for the University of Pittsburgh next year, has faced a lot of double teams, and Kennedy was no exception. Still, Vazquez managed to affect the match and even assisted on the team’s fourth goal in the 77th minute, crossing from the left corner to the far post for Herman to tap in the goal.

“The nice thing about that is it opens up Liz (Philibin),” Sikich said of the attention paid to Vazquez. “That’s what you’ve been seeing a little bit – that they’re focusing on Julie, it opens up Liz and puts her one-on-one. When Liz goes one-on-one on these players, you can see her speed out on the field – it’s just hard to keep up with her.”

While Mooney’s offense continued to pour goals past opponents, the defense struggled at times, as the Eagles offense created a number of opportunities – especially late in the first half. Two Kennedy shots clanged off the woodwork and another off a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box went just wide.

“I thought the last 15 to 20 minutes of the first half, we started really controlling the tempo of the game,” Roberts said. “All we needed to do that first one in the second half, and we’re right back in it. Then, we have a mistake in front the goal, and the ball rolls in.”

As for the Cardinals, they’re starting to turn their sights toward the postseason as they have four matches left in the regular season. Philibin said the goal is to at least repeat the postseason success from last year.

“I’m pretty sure it’s to win districts again like last year and to just get better every game so going into playoffs, we’re our best,” Philibin said.

Three of a kind

LEAVITTSBURG – For some high schoolers, an after-school job can be a drag. They’ve already logged nearly eight hours of classroom time, and then when the school bell rings, it’s time to head to the mall or a fast-food restaurant to earn a few extra dollars in spending money.

For Newton Falls seniors Jacob Harrah and Sean Croell, their after-school workload isn’t flipping burgers or ringing up customers – they’re hanging out on a golf course.

“It’s a dream job for sure,” Harrah said of his job at Riverview Golf Course. “I’ve gotten to to know a lot of the members and some of the older guys who work there. Just being on a golf course is awesome. I never dread going to work. Any excuse to be on the golf course is good, so working is something I really enjoy.”

Croell plans on majoring in sports business in college, so he sees this opportunity as a way to get his foot in the door in the field.

“It’s great experience,” he said. “I’m out there as much as I can be.”

Combined, the Tigers tandem works about 30 hours per week bringing in driving range balls, cleaning carts and even changing the pin placements on the greens. They aren’t the only local prep golfers working at Riverview, either. LaBrae senior Haylee Harford, already a regular on the course, also picks up some extra cash by working at Riverview.

“It’s not that tremendous,” Harford said of her one-day-per-week position. “It’s nice to help out. I’m kind of the cart girl, so I will clean the carts, make sure there’s enough carts for people to take and clean the practice facilities, making them nice for players.”

One perk of the job is the free, unlimited play time. Croell, Harford and Harrah usually play together when they’re off the clock.

“We all have fun no matter what we do,” Croell said. “It’s fun in competitive matches and fun when we’re just playing together in our down time at the course.

“The pressure is definitely off when we’re playing against them. LaBrae is a great team and Haylee is a great golfer. But the fact that we know each other so well makes things a lot easier.”

Then there are the days when they are playing on the course, but instead of friends and coworkers, they are rivals and competitors. On Thursday at Riverview, the senior trio played against each other for the final time of their high school careers in the regular season – and the results were some of the best of the year.

Of the three, Harford led the way with a 35, followed by Croell with a 37 and Harrah with a 39. But the team victory went to the Tigers as they carded a 152 to the Vikings’ 160.

When the first group came in (which consists of the No. 1 and 2 players for each team), LaBrae had a six-stroke lead. That was aided by a 35 shot by LaBrae’s Grant Sprague.

However, it was the rest of the Tigers that were able to get the win for Newton Falls. Zack Berry, the No. 3 golfer for Newton Falls, shot a 35 and Jon Stratakis shot a 41. The win improves Newton Falls to 9-1. LaBrae is now 7-4.

“It just goes to show, that though golf is an individual sport, it takes a team to win,” Newton Falls coach Scott Kernen said. “We hung tough and finished strong.”

As for the three Riverview coworkers, though they won’t play each other as a member of the Tigers or Vikings again, they will still see each other around the links.

“It’s a unique situation,” Kernen said. “Jake and Sean have been working out there for a long time and Haylee has been there with them the whole way. They play together just about everyday in the summer – Haylee will even play with us during practice. All the kids will accept her, it’s good friendships and the kids have a great rapport with each other. But they are serious during a match and they want to beat each other.”