Against the odds, Girls Soccer wins MVC and Sectional Titles

Edwin Sam

By Edwin Sam ’13, Sports Section Editor

By setting their goals clearly and early, the Girls’ Soccer Team showed work ethic which paid dividends as they silenced the critics that believed the girls could not replace their three key graduated seniors. Winning both the MVC and Sectional titles, the ladies proved that it takes a balance of talented freshmen and experienced seniors to win big games.

The girls’ team started their season with two important matches that highlighted their reliance on their quartet of standout freshmen Ali Lusk ’15, Bri Maggard ’15, Kaitlin Harden ‘15, and Grace Krammer ‘15. All playing for the same club team, Cincinnati United Premier (CUP), Maggard, Harden, Krammer, and sophomore Kelsey Zimmers ‘14, all knew how the others played before the season had even started. Lusk, who plays for the Beechmont Soccer Club, scored the game-winning goal in the first game of the season against Miami Valley and went on to score the game-tying goal in the next game versus Springfield Central Catholic.

“At the beginning of the season, the freshmen were soft, not very strong, a little timid, but as the year went on, they got so much better,” noted senior captain Ari Knue ’12, “They quickly adapted to high school soccer which is a lot different than club soccer.”

The Indians then went through a stretch of six tough games, playing a few of the top local teams such as Madeira, Mariemont, and Seven Hills, going 2-4 in those matches.

Seniors like Sirena Isadore and Ari Knue on the field, with Lily Cohen in the goal, used their leadership skills to turn the team’s fortunes around. The ladies evinced their fortitude and resilience after the arduous period, winning six of their next seven games.

The highlights of this amazing stretch were a win against CHCA where the team lost Kelsey Zimmers to injury for the remainder of the season and a dramatic victory over Summit, the eventual state champion, which secured the MVC title.  “We always had the goal of having at or less than seven losses because we had seven last year,” mentioned senior captain Lauren Wise ’12. This important win secured both their goals of having no more than seven losses and winning the MVC championship.

Tactical changes in the team’s formation in addition to changes in many players’ positions led to their late success.  Head Coach Theresa Hirschauer made the bold decision to play with three defenders rather than the typical four in order to stimulate the team’s attack. When upperclassmen Sally Portman ’13 and Lauren Wise were ruled our because of injury, the team’s depth took a hit. Hirsch renewed her focus on fitness because as a result of that lack of depth and those key injuries, most of the starters played the full 80 minutes or close to.

In the final game of the regular season, Indian Hill, a Division-II state quarterfinalist, defeated the Indians by a score of 2-0. However, the girls rode the momentum from their last six wins into the state tournament where they advanced further than many expected.

They opened their tournament with a comfortable 3-0 win over Williamsburg. In the next match, the Indians faced the familiar foes—Seven Hills. After playing 80 minutes of regulation plus two 15-minute sudden death periods, their season came down to the dreaded penalty shootout, hated by players but loved by spectators.

In a season marked by the brilliance of the stunning freshmen class, the girls relied on their experienced upperclassmen to deliver the win in penalties. “As seniors knowing they could be our last soccer games ever, right before every game, we would say that it was not going to be our last,” Knue continued, “We simply didn’t want it to end.”

Captains Knue, Isadore , and Wise stepped up to shoot penalties along with junior Julia Murphy ’13 and sophomore Ashley Streit ’14.

The Indians, who shot first, revealed their vast composure as they scored two of their first four penalties. Seven Hills had made three penalties going into Country Day’s fifth strike, so a goal by the Indians was needed to send the penalties to sudden death. Lauren Wise laced the penalty kick into the back of the net to keep Country Day in the shootout. With an opportunity to knock Country Day out of the tournament, Seven Hills then missed the ensuing penalty. Lily Cohen, the sixth shooter, was unable to convert and gave Seven Hills life, but she would soon be given a chance at redemption. Seven Hills missed again, sending the penalties to a second sudden death round. Junior Olivia June ’13 shot and scored the seventh penalty to give the Indians a temporary advantage. In the most critical of moments, senior goalkeeper Lily Cohen redeemed herself, making an emphatic save on the Seven Hills’ penalty and handing the Indians the dramatic sectional championship.

In their final game of the season, the girls lost to Madeira, the defending state champions, 2-1. Misfortune struck as Sirena Isadore had a penalty saved at the death that would have tied the game and sent it to extra time.

The team whose youth caused doubt by many proved their critics wrong by winning the sectional and MVC championships. In the future, their healthy balance of youth and experience will prove advantageous as they look to accomplish their goals as well as they did this year.

Photo courtesy of Lynne Skilken