The final finale

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS – After 22 years of manning the Champion girls’ touchline, coach Dan Houle has given his fair share of the end-of-the-season talks when his teams lose their final tournament matches.

On Tuesday evening at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, Houle gave the last one of his coaching career at the end of Champion’s 6-0 Division III regional semifinal loss against Hawken. The loss marked Houle’s last match in charge of the Golden Flashes.

“Everything ends,” Houle said. “I’ve been at this long enough. Unfortunately, you don’t like to see a 6-0 game in anything, but that’s the way it is. They had a good season, it has to end. It would have been nicer with a victory or a loss with not so many (goals), but that’s the way it is.”

His players showed their appreciation following the match, with several girls walking up to him as he walked off the field to give him a hug.

“It’s been a blast having him for the past four years, and I don’t know that we would have made it this far with anybody else,” senior sweeper Jenna Parry said. “We’re really appreciative of his coaching.”

Going into halftime, Champion (14-4-2) still had a chance to extend Houle’s coaching career – or at least make his last match a memorable one.

Despite playing the vast majority of the game in their own half and seeing very little of the ball, the Flashes held the Hawks (14-1-5) to a single goal, which came in the 22nd minute on a play in which Champion lost possession in its own half and Hawken took advantage of a defense in disarray. Outside of that blimp, Champion’s defense kept its shape and held strong, frustrating the No. 2-ranked team in the state.

“I was pretty confident at halftime,” Parry said. “I felt there was hope that we could come back. Normally, we are a second-half team, and I don’t think that we saw that from us (against Hawken).”

The wheels came off early in the second half for Champion, however, as the Hawks scored three goals in the first 8 minutes to put the match away early. Hawken added two more goals in the 62nd minute to complete the big second half.

“These guys were like a machine,” Houle said. “They just moved the ball and didn’t stop doing that. They’re so well trained. But I understand a lot of them play internationally, and I guess that’s what you have to do to play internationally.”

It wasn’t just one player who burnt the Flashes, but several, as all six goals were scored by different players.

The Hawks created goals from multiple methods, including a singular player dribbling through the defense as seen in Daniela Brkic’s goal in the 43rd minute. They scored using through passes to get behind the defense, and Marley Magruder scored the Hawks’ fifth goal in the 62nd minute with a rocket from distance.

“We knew they had a different style of play than anybody we’ve ever seen before, and I don’t think we were prepared for how to mark that,” Parry said. “They were more making runs and overlapping, where we’re used to teams in our area that more or less just play a kickball game and they chase.”

With this being the last match for Parry and seven other seniors, the senior co-captain reflected on the season. Although the Flashes lost, Parry said the team should be happy they made as deep a run in the tournament as they did.

“I think that we had a fantastic season,” Parry said. “At the beginning of the season, I don’t know any one of us expected that we would make it as far as we did. I think that right there, that’s a huge accomplishment, and we should be satisfied being district champs.”