Champion learns from experience with Springfield

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Emma Koon, left, of Champion makes a push upfield with the ball while being defended by Springfield sophomore Brionna Holt.

CHAMPION — After a deadlocked first half between two of the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference’s best teams, the Springfield Tigers were able to gain the advantage in the second half Champion to capture a 3-0 victory over the Golden Flashes in their first meeting as league opponents.

“We knew going into this that this would be a big battle,” Champion coach Emily Metheny said. “It’s a great team to go against and it was some great competition we’ve been working toward. I’m really happy with how our team played. We came out strong. We stayed aggressive and made it 0-0 at halftime.

“That’s a great program over there, I commend them. The coaches did a great job coaching them up as well. It’s a learning lesson. Now we just build off of it and take everything away that we learned from this game and move forward.”

Champion goalkeeper Courtney Hurst had a great defensive performance for the Golden Flashes, tallying 13 saves on the night.

That strong defensive performance led to a stalemate in the first half as neither team was able to gain an advantage in the attacking third, despite multiple chances.

After some adjustments at the half, Springfield (7-0) came out firing on all cylinders and were able to break the deadlock with a Kaila LaMorticella goal 54 seconds into the second half.

“We played well in the first half. We just couldn’t find those gaps,” Tigers coach Justin Kosek said. “We talked about a couple of position changes to try and find the sides and then get it back inside. We literally told them to ‘Go a little bit harder, go a little bit faster and go a little bit longer.’ When we jumped out and got the goal, we just built off that and kept going.

“That second half was by far the most exciting I’ve watched these girls play all year. They were stepping all over everything.”

The initial goal by LaMorticella gave the Tigers a large momentum shift and the team was able to capitalize with a goal by Kylee Kosek less than 6 minutes after Springfield’s first.

“That first goal was huge,” Justin Kosek said. “We always talk about ‘How fast can we get one to put pressure on the other team?’ and to jump out of a 0-0 game in the second half and put one on the board that quickly changes the complexity. They go into a bit of a panic mode for a couple minutes and we just pressure, pressure, pressure.”

With 16 minutes remaining in the game, LaMorticella scored once more to set the game at 3-0. Despite some great opportunities for Champion to capitalize on late in the second half, the Golden Flashes (6-1) weren’t able to put a goal away and suffer their first loss of the season.

“That was a great, exciting game to be a part of,” Justin Kosek said. “These are the kind of games you want to play before a tournament to help you get ready. I’m glad we have them twice this year because they’re in our league. It was exciting and it was fun to be a part of.”

The Golden Flashes’ offense was smothered by the Tiger defenders, which led them to force only two saves out of Springfield goalkeeper Caitlin Cappelli. An increase in aggression is the main thing Metheny wants to see out of her girls in the team’s next match against Waterloo.

“We need to be aggressive and capitalize on every opportunity and just keep playing as a team,” she said.

The two teams will face each other once again Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Springfield Local High School.


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