That bullseye on West Geauga’s back is shining brighter than ever.
Having won the Chagrin Valley Conference banner the past two years, the West Geauga Wolverines girls soccer team knew that they were going to be in for a fight in the 2021 season in order to achieve a three-peat.
That proved true when West Geauga found itself in a physical battle with conference rival Orange, resulting in a 0-0 tie last Thursday night in Pepper Pike.
“When you come off a season like we had last season you have a target on your back,” said Wolverines’ coach Kori Jesenovec. “Every team will play you like its playing for the district championship. If we don’t anticipate that every single game than we get results like this.”
It marked the third straight stalemate for West Geauga (1-1-4) and the first time since the 2014 campaign in which it played four or more ties.
The Wolverines entered the match having won six consecutive regular season contests against Orange from 2014-2019. Orange did not snap West Geauga’s unbeaten streak but ended the losing streak.
It’s clear that this is a different Lions (3-1-1) team than the one West Geauga has grown used to dominating.
“Going into this we knew we had a huge mountain to climb,” noted Orange senior goalkeeper Lily Regele. “We came into this knowing we have to play better and go in with everything we had. We knew West Geauga was the top dog. In previous years it had beaten us and had great players but I think this year we went in determined and well-prepared.”
After fighting through offensive woes to tie Lake Catholic on Aug. 26, it seemed the Wolverines had figured something out when they took a 3-0 lead in the contest against Bay on Aug. 31, but the Rockets rallied in the second half to finish the match with a 3-3 tie.
“I think our offense can find its moment at times,” said Jesenovec. “I think the consistency is where we need to build on that. Especially against Bay, we found really great moments at times but that consistency and being able to sustain it is still a building block for us at this time.”
West Geauga’s offensive struggles continued in the first half as the Lions’ focused their efforts to face guard junior Frankee Flesher.
“We do know Frankee is a very special player that can make a difference in any game,” said Orange coach Dani Guilvezan. “Of course we were trying to pay her attention a bit more and try to eliminate those plays that can influence the game.”
The Lions controlled the pace in the opening half as they recorded six shots on goal while limiting West Geauga to only five.
“They just tried to shut down our attack,” said the five-year Wolverines’ coach. “That was their offense. I think the game was controlled more with out of bounds play and them trying to slow the game down.”
The Wolverines flipped things around in the second half as they became more aggressive and found better looks at the net.
“I think in the second half we controlled the ball a little bit more,” said Jesenovec. “I think we did a better job at the amount of possessions in the second half which prevented a lot of transition moments.”
The Wolverines logged eight shots on goal but Regele was a brick wall by snaring six saves.
“That’s a big thing for me to stay focused and be mentally ready,” explained Lions’ goalie. “I knew that West Geauga liked to play those long balls and when we man marked Frankee I knew they could take shots from anywhere. I had to be ready and if I lost that focus that I had then the ball would go past me. Whether it’s a defensive mistake or my mistake, it can throw a game off for us.”
Although she has been a four-year starter for Orange, this marks just the second year she has been the starting goalkeeper. Regele totaled nine saves during the match.
“I think Lily had a super game last Thursday,” said the third-year Orange coach of his senior goalkeeper. “It was probably one of the best games in her high school career. She’s a great kid, a very dedicated soccer player and cares about the game tremendously. I think she made a lot of saves and was very influential in the game.”
While the Wolverines were relentless in attacking the net, their defense stepped up and held Orange to just one shot in the entire second half.
“You have to build an attack to build any momentum,” said Jesenovec. “I don’t think there was any point during this match Orange had any opportunity aside from one or two times when it maintained possession on our side of the field. I think our defense did a great job at keeping our attackers with the ball and they just did what they’re supposed to do day in and day out.”
West Geauga snapped its winless streak and moved to 2-1-4 by defeating Parkersburg South 3-1 for on Sep. 6 in Warsaw.
After a road contest against conference foe Chagrin Falls on Sep. 9 at 7 pm at C.S. Harris Stadium, the Wolverines will stay on the road and take on Mentor on Sep. 13 at 7 p.m. while Orange will welcome Lake Catholic to Lewis Black Stadium the same evening at 7 p.m.