Having won their last two games in overtime, the Chagrin Falls Tigers girls’ soccer team wanted to secure a victory in the first 80 minutes of their Division II regional finals match.
The Tigers earned a berth to the state final four by defeating Chagrin Valley Conference foe West Geauga 7-1 in the regional finals last Saturday afternoon at Nordonia High School.
“We had played West Geauga earlier in the regular season but knew it was not our best game,” said Tigers’ co-coach Pamela Malone. “We let them back in a game that we were dominating but ended up with a 2-2 tie. We came out very aggressive and motivated to get the win.”
It marked the second time in the last three seasons the Tigers secured a spot in the final four and seventh regional title for the program since Malone was named coach.
The Wolverines were making their first appearance in the regional finals since the 2010 campaign. The last time they were in the regional finals coach Kori Jesenovec still played for the team her senior year.
Prior to the match, the Tigers made a tweak to their front line. Sophomore Alex Chinnicci moved into the forward position and freshman Bella Radomsky switched over to center midfielder. Malone said she Chinnicci’s position change would make Tigers’ offense more dynamic.
The move paid off in spades as the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the second minute when Chinnicci brought the ball up the left side of the field and crossed it over to senior midfielder Sarah Burgess who finished it from seven yards out.
Four minutes later, Chagrin Falls held a 2-0 edge as junior defender Kate Bartlett wrapped a corner kick inside the back post unassisted.
The Tigers continued their fast start as junior forward Elana McGinnis scored after finishing off a cross from Burgess in the 14th minute then Burgess scored her second goal of the match off a cross from McGinnis in the 15th minute to give Chagrin Falls a 4-0 lead.
“I thought we had the potential to put in multiple goals in this game and come out with the win,” the 26-year Tigers’ coach said. “I did not expect scoring seven goals on West Geauga let alone four in the first 15 minutes. I knew we could score goals against it if we were more consistent with out effort and our overall play.”
Jesenovec believed her team still had a chance after behind 2-0 but once it turned into 4-0 deficit, she could see it was an uphill battle.
“It’s not necessarily the first two,” said Jesenovec. “Once the third hit and the fourth hit and every single one after that, it was not good for the morale of our team.”
West Geauga tried to adjust its defense but to no avail.
“We knew they were going to go wide and into the middle but we didn’t do enough to stop them,” admitted the five-year West Geauga coach. “When you see it happening over and over again and don’t do enough to adjust, they are going to continue to capitalize on it. Every time they shot the ball it went in the back of the net. Their shots and finishes were just simple and we couldn’t combat that.”
Chagrin Falls turned it into a rout in the second half when McGinnis scored her second goal of the match at the 55th minute.
Burgess was the Tigers’ leading scorer tallying four goals in the match. Primarily a facilitator, the addition of Chinnicci at the forward’s position added another playmaker at the top of the pitch allowing Burgess to open up her game.
The Tigers’ defense held up their end by shutting down West Geauga leading scorers juniors Megan McGinnis and Frankee Flesher.
“We knew Frankee and Megan were scoring threats,” noted Malone. “Any time they got the ball we doubled them and forced to their non-dominant foot. We just focused on their tendencies and trimes to make them uncomfortable with their shots.”
It was the end of the road for West Geauga but it was another impressive campaign. The Wolverines defended their district title and overcame a slow start to the season after holding a 2-2-6 record in their first ten matches.
“It’s an incredible feat to see the team overcome the challenges of the season,” Jesenovec said. “We had so many ties at the beginning of the season and it could have been easy for the girls to turn in and to not turn up but I think that these girls realized they had a new level to them.”
After the Tigers’ state semifinals match against Rocky River in Strongsville on Nov. 9, the winner will advance to the Division II state cup at Lower.com Field in Columbus on Nov. 12 at 4 p.m.