Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
October 10, 2019
Entering the match with 75 goals through 13 games, the Kenston girls soccer team sure didn’t need any help from rival Chagrin Falls during a clash on the pitch last Thursday at C.S. Harris Stadium.
But one of the host Lady Tigers’ starting center midfielders drew her second yellow card during a 1-1 deadlock in the 57th minute, and Chagrin Falls would have to play a man down for the final 23:41.
Whether or not the Lady Tigers’ lock-down defense, led by four-year starter and Western Michigan commit Katie Schumacher, could stave off Kenston’s potent offense and hold on for a 1-1 draw had to be the question.
“We always talk about how we have to play our game and keep calm,” Schumacher said. “We can’t let something like that rile us up, because then we know we’re not going to be able to play our game. So, we talked, and we just said, ‘Hey, we need to stay focused. It is not a big deal. We need to play clean. We need to continue doing what we do.’”
Chagrin entered the game with a 10-2-1 record and ranked No. 17 in the Division II coaches poll, while Kenston was unbeaten at 12-0-1 through the possessive play of sophomore attacking midfielder Skylar Cornell and the speed up top by senior Elyse Myles – a duo that had a combined 44 goals entering the night.
In the flow of play, Chagrin’s defensive line, which also features junior center back Jaime Dustin, senior right back Molly Barr and junior left back Marley Graham, stayed compact and aggressive to take away Kenston’s quick counters, combinations and through balls.
The Lady Bombers owned the pace of play with more confidence in the opening 10 minutes, but it wasn’t until the 13th minute that they tested Chagrin third-year junior keeper Aerin Krebs. Kenston freshman holding midfielder Emma Gaskin ripped a shot from 30 yards out that Krebs made a diving save on.
“Our defense just steps up every game,” Chagrin Falls 28th-year head coach Pamela Malone said about limiting Kenston’s shots on goal. “As far as counteracting their speed, we just matched it and stood them up defensively and forced them to go either laterally or back.”
The defensive play by Chagrin led to offensive confidence in pushing numbers forward and possessing in attack rather than just making runs on short-handed counters.
In the 17th minute, a diagonal feed into the box skipped off the turf with an unintentional handball by a Kenston defender, and Chagrin sophomore forward Sarah Burgess was in position to rip a strike from 12 yards out that Kenston senior keeper Julia Piazza was quick to react for a diving save.
At that point, it became evident that any goal would be earned at either end of the pitch.
With 5:48 left in the half, Kenston sophomore center back Aidan Myles ripped a free kick from 40 yards out that hit off the crossbar and into the back of the net for her fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead for the Lady Bombers.
Despite the Chagrin Falls girls really dialing in to own the better of play in the final 10 minutes of the half, they entered intermission with a 1-0 deficit.
“That’s what I love about soccer and what I hate about soccer,” Malone said. “There’s one opportunity, maybe two opportunities, and you have to take advantage of them, and Kenston did with that free kick. That was a great free kick. And at halftime, we said, ‘Hey, let’s just do what we do.’”
Doing what the Lady Tigers do, senior midfielder Creagan Mee took a corner kick in the fifth minute of the second half that the younger Myles appeared to have cleared on a header out of the box.
But Kenston wasn’t able to fully complete the clear, as Chagrin center back Schumacher got a step and fired a rocket from 30 yards out that went upper 90s for the 1-1 equalizer. That was Schumacher’s eighth tally of the season.
“I’ve made sure to stay up on those plays, because you never know what can happen,” she said. “And I just turned around, and I shot it. But I knew we needed it as a team, and it really brought up the team spirit. So, it was for the team.”
The next 10 minutes or so were uneventful in terms of shots on target, and then one of Chagrin’s center midfielders picked up that second yellow card with 23:41 to play.
But Chagrin kept up the pressure in the midfield before Kenston could gain traction of its man-up attack, and the Lady Tigers were awarded a free kick from 25 yards out.
Sophomore Peyton Gellin, who moved from forward to center mid in the aftermath of the second yellow card, wasted no time to put the set piece down and let it fly off the far post and into the net for the Lady Tigers’ 2-1 upper hand with 21:48 to play. It was her 14th goal of the season.
“We always talk about how you never know,” Gellin said about placing her tally off the post. “The other team is setting up their wall, and sometimes the goalie’s not paying attention, and we always try to catch them off guard. I think I just knew I had to hit it. We don’t get many opportunities during the game, and I think that was one that we just had to capitalize on.”
Kenston put together some good combination work with its speed, but attacks were short-lived or cut off by goalie Krebs. In particular, Cornell played a through ball to freshman forward Sophia Cartellone with 4:45 to play, but Krebs came out of the box to cut it off. A follow-up shot by senior outside midfielder Madison Journey from long range was off mark.
For the most part, however, Chagrin’s foot-to-foot work was second to none to possess for the majority of the final 23:41 that the Lady Tigers had to play with a man down.
Refusing to just sit back and play defense in that situation, the Chagrin Falls girls put a stamp on a 2-1 victory to hand their rival its first loss of the season.
“We earned it,” Malone said. “I mean, we worked hard for it. We went down to 10 players, and I’ve never done that before.”
In her 28th year at the helm, Malone has coached 551 games with the Lady Tigers, including five trips to the state final four and Division II championship in 1996, but she’s never coached a game with a player down.
“Twenty-eight seasons, I’ve never had to play with 10, ever,” she said. “I am positive. So, that was new for me. And we work on possession so much. So, they know how to move the ball on the field, moving it from one channel to the next, and I felt we finished the game strong.”
With the victory, Chagrin Falls moved up to No. 12 in the coaches poll.
Kenston, meanwhile, went on to beat Madison, 2-0, on Monday night to improve to 13-1-1, including a 6-0-1 mark in the Western Reserve Conference to secure the league banner outright.
The Lady Bombers will conclude their season on the road against Division II No. 5-ranked West Geauga (12-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday, while Chagrin will finish up at Lutheran West at 1 p.m. Saturday in Rocky River.
Owning the top two seeds in the 10-team Division II Chagrin District, Kenston and Chagrin Falls have the possibility to collide again with a district title on the line Oct. 24 in Streetsboro.
Visit The Chagrin Valley Times to view their photos..