West Geauga renowned goal scorer Nicola Ehrbar hammered away a pair of tallies to put the Lady Wolverines well on their way to a bounce-back victory in a regular-season finale against Kenston on Saturday afternoon at Howell Field.
Coming off a 1-0 loss against Lake Catholic, the Division II state No. 5-ranked Lady Wolverines (13-2) were focused on scoring early against Kenston (13-2-1) to regain some offensive rhythm before the playoffs.
Both West Geauga and Kenston already earned the top seeds in their respective Division II districts. In addition, the Lady Wolverines claimed an outright banner in the Chagrin Valley Conference, and the Lady Bombers secured an outright championship in the Western Reserve Conference.
The final result would not make or break either squad’s campaign, but some healthy competition is never a bad thing to get postseason ready.
“I definitely think beating Kenston is a good morale booster going into the tournament,” Ehrbar said. “For us to end our season, that we’ve been doing so well, with a win, after we had that loss against Lake Catholic, I thought it was good that we were able to come back and get some confidence going into the postseason.”
West Geauga had only been shut out against Division I Twinsburg (12-2-1) before getting blanked by Lake Catholic last Monday, so the Lady Wolverines were focused on scoring early to break the ice against Kenston.
In the sixth minute, West G junior holding midfielder Bailey Zanella chipped Kenston’s three-back line, and Ehrbar was able to run onto the feed to finish the 1-0 tally, providing Zanella her 10th assist of the season.
“We realized Kenston’s back line was playing sort of high,” Zanella said. “So, we knew, if we could chip a ball over the top of the line, over to Nikki, that she would be able to run onto it, and I think that was the tactic that we used to make that play happen.
“It was very important to score early. We knew that we needed to set our standard at the beginning of the game, and we also knew that we wanted to come out and show the best we could possibly play. We wanted to prove that we play West G soccer.”
Less than a minute later, Ehrbar stuck again on an unassisted tally.
It was just the fifth game this season that Kenston surrendered multiple goals. The Lady Bombers entered the afternoon outscoring their first 15 opponents, 78-12.
“My second goal, I don’t even know what happened for sure,” Ehrbar said. “Something happened, and it kind of got bobbled out. The keeper was out, and the ball just kind of came rolling, and I was able to hit it from the top of the box into a wide-open net.
“They were trying to clear the ball, but something happened there where there was a miscommunication or a misdirection, and it just kind of popped out, and people weren’t in their correct positions.”
Kenston may have faced a 2-0 deficit, but 74 minutes to play is a lifetime of soccer with a potent offense.
The Lady Bombers struck back in the 18th minute on a tally by freshman outside midfielder Ramsey Smith, her fourth of the year, to cut the deficit, 2-1.
Then sophomore holding midfielder Sophia Mighton popped a 2-2 equalizer into upper netting in the 36th minute for her seventh goal of the season and a deadlock at intermission.
“Kenston did capitalize on a couple of opportunities that they had,” Zanella said. “But I also feel that our energy in the first half was not as strong as our energy in the second half. We did not play West G soccer as much as we wanted to in the first half.
“So, we talked about how we could raise our standard and at least meet our standard.”
While both teams field several offensive weapons on the pitch, Kenston sophomore attacking midfielder Skylar Cornell, 25 goals and six assists, and senior forward Elyse Myles, 20 goals and six assists, are no doubt big targets for opposing defenses.
Likewise, Ehrbar is just as much of a scoring threat, but that didn’t stop the Lady Wolverine junior standout from capitalizing on sophomore sister Rae Ehrbar’s corner kick to reclaim a lead, 3-2, in the sixth minute of the second half.
Netting the hat trick, the elder Ehrbar upped her season total to 26 goals, a program mark, with the corner kick accounting for the younger Ehrbar’s team-high 16th assist.
“The ball was bouncing around, and it popped out, and I kind of volleyed it one time, and it went in,” the elder Ehrbar said. “That definitely helped us retake the momentum and I think keep it for the rest of the game. It got us back into our groove to help lead us to our win.”
Overall, West Geauga put 12 shots on target to Kenston’s four, with Lady Wolverine freshman goalkeeper Ashlyn Drayer coming up with two saves. Lady Bomber senior keeper Julia Piazza recorded nine.
Kenston entered the game with eight shutout victories, while West Geauga had six clean sheets.
Owning the top seed in the 10-team Chagrin District, Kenston will host No. 9-seed Laurel School at 7 p.m. Thursday. The winner will play either No. 4 Aurora or No. 5 Beachwood in the district semifinals at 7 p.m. Oct. 21.
And owning the top seed in the 10-team Mentor District, West Geauga will host No. 9-seed Jefferson Area at 7 p.m. Thursday. The winner will play either No. 4 Hawken School or No. 5 Geneva in the district semifinals at 7 p.m. Oct. 21.
West Geauga and Kenston would not meet again unless both teams advance to the regional championship game on Nov. 2, with a time and location to be determined.
“I think we need to stay focused on the goals we set at the beginning of the season,” Zanella said. “If we all are determined to meet those goals and we all want to complete them, I think we will be able to.”