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Heading toward win

Eagles’ seniors victorious against Girard in last game at home

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Hubbard’s Whitney Hendrix, left, battles for possession on a header with Girard junior Kaitlyn Culver in the first half.

HUBBARD — On a rainy night at Hubbard Memorial Stadium, the OHSAA Division II Northeast I bracket got underway with a matchup featuring the host Eagles and visiting Girard Indians, a pair of Northeast-8 teams that already saw each other twice this season.

Despite winning 3-0 over the Indians, there were some bittersweet feelings for the 10 Eagles seniors who played their final match of their career at home.

Joella Coxson, one of those 10 Hubbard seniors, was almost at a loss for words following her team’s victory.

“It’s been an incredible four years, and it’s really emotional because it’s hard to believe that it’s ending, and this is my last game on this field,” she said. “It kinda makes me want to cry.”

Coxson scored the second of Hubbard’s two goals midway through the first half off a corner kick on the south end of the stadium.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Hubbard senior Joella Coxson, left, watches as she scores the Eagles second goal, with Girard senior Samantha Duris playing defense.

“Not just in this game, but in every game you play, it’s very important to shut down the team right off the bat,” she said. “I guess it builds up our confidence in our play and also shuts the other team down.”

Earlier this fall, Hubbard beat Girard twice by finals of 2-0 and 8-0, and Eagles coach Josh MacMillan wanted this game for his seniors.

“They (Girard) definitely came to play, they played hard,” he said. “Overall though, we got 10 seniors, so there is that emotional part where you think to yourself, this is the last time that they’ll play on this field.

“This is my third year here, and they’re a great group of kids, so it’s definitely a pleasure to have them, and we’re definitely going to have a hard time filling those shoes.”

Sophomore Kenna Reinard knocked in the first goal early in the contest for Hubbard.

“I honestly think that this game has been special because of all of our seniors that we’re losing this year,” Reinard said. “Overall, we played very well this season.”

She feels that scoring early energizes the team.

“It builds up more momentum, and we get more energy,” she said.

The third and final goal of the match came with 5:00 minutes left in the first half when senior Brooke Papini converted a successful penalty kick.

Girard played tighter defense in the second half, and MacMillian saw the difference on the pitch.

“They were playing a really high line, so that negated a lot of space at times, and they mixed it up because they might be high for a bit and then they dropped in really, really deep,” he explained. “So, it was a constant guessing game on exactly how to handle it, so they were able to mix stuff up quite a bit and didn’t really let us get into as good of a rhythm as we had in the first half.”

The Indians (5-12) saw their 2020 season come to a close, and Girard coach Kayla Richey said team left it on the field.

“It was a tough, tough game tonight. Our girls played really well,” she said. “Made a couple of good shots, they made a PK so that kinda hurt us, but they gave it their all, and I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.

“It was a better season than we thought, so that was good. Came out, had a better record than we did last year, so we’re improving each year. We’re going to keep working in the offseason and come back stronger next year.”

Girard has six seniors; Maya Serrano, Samantha Duris, Audrey Graham, Olivia Repasky, Gabriella LoCastro and Alexis Migliozzi, who were all described as the “glue to this team” by Richey.

Fourteenth-seeded Hubbard (8-9) recorded its sixth shutout of the season and moves on to face second-seeded Canfield on Thursday.

MacMillian has tons of respect for the Cardinals program and what they’ve achieved, but he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“We’re just excited to be able to maybe see how well we can play and what we can do, and we’re obviously a severe underdog, but for our kids, one thing I love about them is regardless of what the score is, they’ll play hard for me for 80 minutes, and that’s what we’ll do on Thursday and see what happens.”

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