Shorthanded Lordstown downs PV
ANDOVER — With just 12 players on the roster, the Lordstown girls soccer team has to be tough-minded, well-conditioned and remain focused throughout games.
The 13th-seeded Red Devils displayed those traits Monday night in the first round of the Division III district tournament when they downed 11th-seeded host Pymatuning Valley 4-0.
“We came to play and, if we play like this, we can keep advancing a while longer,” Lordstown coach Melissa Thomas said. “It was one of the best, if not the best, game we’ve played this year.”
By avenging two regular-season losses to NAC co-champion Pymatuning Valley, the Red Devils improved to 7-8-2 and will play at seventh-seeded Rootstown on Thursday.
The Rovers had a first-round bye.
Junior forward Sarah Schneider scored three goals and sophomore forward Emma Urchek tacked on the game’s final score.
Schneider scored her first in the initial 6 minutes to set the tone.
“This feels really, really good because we worked really, really hard leading into this game and during the game, too,” Schneider said. “They send two or three girls to me defensively. It’s something they’ve done every time we’ve played them.
“We worked on two things coming in, getting some girls on the wings that I can get the ball to when the defense came after me, and getting Melody (Jacques) and McKenna (Lago) to be able to clear the ball defensively. It worked out really well. They really stepped it up big and they were able to clear the ball and also contain it, too.”
The Lakers, who finished 12-3-2, had beaten Lordstown 4-2 and 2-1 in league play en route to sharing the title with Badger.
“We just didn’t finish,” PV coach Jerry King said. “They did. They had fewer opportunities, but capitalized. Too many times, we kicked right at their keeper instead of finding corners. Lordstown played really well and finished their chances, which they didn’t do in our other two meetings.
“But this was a satisfying season because it was the first time we’ve ever won the NAC.”
It didn’t help the Lakers that they were without the services of injured freshman Leah DeMoss, who scored a team-best 18 goals this season.
“That’s not an excuse because we played Badger without her last Thursday and won 2-1 to win a share of the title,” King said. “But it’s tough. She plays our center-forward spot. She’s also our best passer out to the wing.”
It was the opposite of PV’s 2-1 win over Lordstown, when the Red Devils were without forward Riley Cuckovich.
“In the first meeting, we had won our first two games (of the season) and I think we got overconfident and dug ourselves a hole,” Thomas said. “When we played them the second time, we were missing Riley, and I think that made a difference. We lost 2-1, but it was a very, very good game.
“We knew they were basically going to double- and triple-team Sarah again and follow her everywhere. So we practiced at getting our outsides involved so (Sarah) had somebody to go get the ball to on the wings.”
Schneider scored her second goal with just about 25 minutes left in the first half.
“Schneider is tough, especially with the ball,” King said. “She can score from anywhere and she’s fast with a very good skill set. We wanted her to pass more. We were willing to give anyone else easier looks, but no matter how much we tried, she found ways to get looks or dribble around us. She’s tough to mark.”
Although the Lakers — led by Sierra Tech, Brooke Gray and Sierra Marcin — applied a lot of pressure in the remainder of the game, they could not get one past goalkeeper Jacilyn Wilk, who made the majority of her 18 saves after her club led 2-0.
“Honestly, I was expecting a low-scoring game, a tie that needed to go into overtime,” Wilk said. “I was so nervous. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous before a game, but I stayed focus and was always ready. If it wasn’t for (sweeper Kirsten Stelt), it would’ve been a really close game. She made some big stops.”
The score remained 2-0 for about 55 minutes of game action until Schneider earned the hat trick and burst the hopes of the Lakers when she scored with 9:17 remaining. Urchek’s goal finalized matters with under four minutes left.
“You could tell Pymatuning Valley wanted this game, and they’re a really good team,” Thomas said. “We defended a lot because they got pressure on us. Kirsten Stelt was fantastic in the back, and Jackie played the best game she has ever played. She came out to win.”
PV keeper Ellie Struna finished with seven saves.