ELYRIA — Navigating through the ins and outs of life is a tough battle for any teenager to face, but when you add in a parent battling a life-threatening illness it becomes an entirely different struggle.
Where many might start to weaken, Elyria Catholic’s Jenna Smith’s resolve has strengthened. With her father, Joel, locked in a fight against cancer, Smith played through the emotional turmoil to score a pair of goals and add an assist in EC’s season-opening 8-0 win over Keystone.
“Every game I play is dedicated to my dad,” said Smith, a freshman. “It’s not easy to play right now and it’s hard to focus, but soccer is also helping me through things. I almost quit earlier in the summer but my teammates have really been there for me.
“They have said prayers for my dad and without them I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Elyria Catholic coach Tony Rozanc was pleased with the win, but was more impressed with Smith’s performance in the face of adversity.
“I don’t know how she is doing it” Rozanc said. “My hope is that soccer is giving her a little break from everything else. Her dad’s a great guy and our prayers are with her and her family.
“This is a nice way to open the season but her situation puts everything in the proper perspective.”
Smith, fellow freshman Meliah Roman and sophomores Jenna Ellingson and Keely Birsic combined to score seven goals in the non-conference rout. Roman got the Panthers on the board with an unassisted goal in the fifth minute and followed it with a second goal in the 13th minute on an assist from Ellingson.
Birsic’s goal, on an assist from Smith, put the Panthers up 3-0. Smith’s goals, in the 24th and 28th minutes, capped the first-half scoring and Elyria Catholic took a commanding 5-0 lead into halftime.
“We did a nice job controlling the ball and playing our type of game,” Birsic said. “Keystone is a young team and they have a lot of freshmen playing. As they get older they are going to be a tough team.”
The Panthers took the foot off the gas pedal in the second half, but still managed three goals by Ellingson, Birsic and Danielle Dziak to extend the lead to 8-0. Overall, Elyria Catholic got off 26 shots, including 16 shots on goal. Keystone wasn’t as fortunate with just six shots overall and four on goal.
“We’re a young team that is starting five freshmen,” Keystone coach Tom Giesel said. “My No. 1 and No. 2 keepers are out. The girls I have in there only have about two weeks experience playing the position.
“We did a lot of good things tonight. If we can learn from those things and grow, I think we will be OK. We have some talent but it’s going to take a little time to get everything together.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 8, Keystone 0
GOALS: (EC) Meliah Roman 2 (5th minute, 13th minute), Keely Birsic (16th minute, 77th minute), Jenna Smith (24th minute, 28th minute), Jenna Ellingson (56th minute), Danielle Dziak (79th minute).
ASSISTS: (EC) Ellingson, Smith, Lauren Wisnor.
SHOTS: Elyria Catholic 11, Keystone 2
SHOTS ON GOAL: Elyria Catholic 16, Keystone 4
SAVES: (EC) Katie Gaunter 3, (K) Kayla Gordon 2, Kayla Clark 3