It’s not how you start but how you finish.
After falling behind in the opening minutes, the Hawken Hawks girls soccer overcame their early deficit to defeat Chagrin Valley Conference rival Orange 3-1 last Thursday night at Lewis Black Stadium.
The Hawks have been a different team after they were shut out on Sep. 23 by conference foe Chagrin Falls but have now secured victory over their four matches.
“Chagrin Falls is a strong team,” said Hawken coach Heidi Wilbrandt. “For us it was all about going back to the fundamentals and back to what we were good at which is possession soccer and making sure that we are supporting each other on the field. A lot of what came out of the match against Chagrin Falls was digging into how we communicate and finding more ways to effectively communicate on the field.”
The 2020 season saw the Hawks’ (4-3-3, 1-1-1) six-year winning streak against Orange come to an end with a 1-1 tie but the win last Thursday marked the ninth victory for Hawken in the last ten contests against Orange.
Hawken looked sluggish at the beginning of the match as the Lions (4-4-1, 0-2-1) went ahead 1-0 after Sydney Sarver broke free for the transition goal and won the one-on-one battle with Hawks’ junior goalkeeper Krista Cantwell inside the second minute.
It was the first time Orange had a lead since its 6-4 victory on Sep. 14 against conference foe Geneva.
“It was huge,” said Lions’ coach Dani Guilvezan. “It’s a huge advantage if you can score early. It gives you confidence and it gives you the momentum.”
Hawken’s glaring weakness on defense this season has been in transition.
Orange tried to take advantage with several transition opportunities early on but could not capitalize.
“We had two big chances after Sydney’s goal,” explained the third-year Orange coach. “We didn’t score and Hawken stayed in the game. It could have been 3-0 in the first 15 minutes and that could have changed everything.”
The Hawks tied the game at 1-1 thanks to a lucky bounce.
Hawken junior forward Carmen Cicerini kicked a long-distance goal off an assist from senior midfielder Elizabeth Stupica inside the 30th minute. Orange senior goalkeeper Lily Regele appeared to get a hand on the ball but it had some English on it and slipped right through her hands.
“Liz really gave me a beautiful ball,” said Cicerini smiling. “I really have to thank her for that. It was honestly just luck. I just wanted to hit as hard as I could towards the goal.”
It marked the team-leading seventh goal for the Hawken junior forward this season.
After the Lions started aggressively on offense, Hawken adjusted its defense to limit Orange’s transition opportunities.
“We found our defensive midfielders a little bit more in the central position,” said the four-year Hawks’ coach. “We also bypassed our midfield to using our outside backs a little more and it was helpful just to get into that possession rhythm overall.”
At the beginning of the second half, the Hawks caught Orange flat-footed and went ahead 2-1 on a goal by sophomore midfielder Hannah Killings off an assist from senior forward Franny Connors inside the 42nd minute.
“We’re looking to get Hannah involved with every match,” noted Wilbrandt. “I think Thursday night she made the right run and was in the right position. She put it away and made it look easy.”
The momentum swung in Hawken’s favor when Ciccerini sent a cross from the left post of the goal for Stupica to slot it into the net inside the 57th minute to push the lead to 3-1.
“There was a lot of adrenaline,” recalled Cicerini. “I just remember crossing it to the middle and trying to get it to the penalty kick spot. That’s what coach Wilbrandt always tells us, to hit to the penalty kick spot and it was just a great finish by Liz.”
The Hawks’ junior forward continues to be a reliable playmaker.
“Carmen puts her heart and soul into every ball,” said Wilbrandt. “She has really taken to what we practice this past week into her game play and executed it perfectly.”
After Orange tallied five shots at the net in the first half, the Hawks held their conference rivals to only four shots at the net during the second half.
“We were not able to find the through passes,” noted Guilvezan. “They were either too long, too short or too wide so we were not able to play out of the back or connect out of the back.”
Orange picked up its first conference victory of the season with a 7-0 victory against Beachwood on Oct. 2 to improve its record to 5-4-1 (1-2-1).
After a conference duel against Chagrin Falls at C.S. Harris Stadium on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., the Lions will face Aurora at Veteran’s Stadium on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. The Hawks will enjoy the weekend off after playing a match against Hathaway Brown at Walton Stadium on Oct. 5 and then traveling to Howell Field to face conference foe West Geauga at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7.