July 1, 2016


Girls soccer: Pioneers’ sister act leads the way

ELYRIA — The Jones sisters, Celeste and Darian, combined for three goals Monday as Elyria blanked previously undefeated Brookside 4-0 at Pioneer Field.

The other goal was scored by senior tri-captain Natalie Benko, who coincidentally represents half of another Pioneers sister act.

With strong support from the defense, Jami Wright, Elyria’s junior goalkeeper, logged her first shutout of the season. The non-conference match was played in nearly perfect late-summer weather.

While the Cardinals (3-1-1) lost for the first time, the young and pleasantly surprising Pioneers improved to 2-2-3. To the untrained eye, the numbers perhaps seem unimpressive.

But look carefully and you’ll see they show coach Venera Ilievski’s team is unbeaten in five of its seven matches.

It’s been several years since an Elyria girls soccer team has started as well.

Celeste Jones, a senior, set the tone when she scored with the match just 13 seconds old off an assist by Benko. She said it was the quickest goal she ever scored. Her previous best was 27 seconds.

“We kinda planned that and it worked out perfectly,” Jones said.

Her sister, freshman Darian, made it a 2-0 game with an unassisted left-footer in the 33rd minute; Benko treated the Pioneers to a 3-0 halftime lead in the 38th minute, and Celeste Jones ended the scoring with her second goal in the 51st minute. Celeste nailed her seventh goal of the season on a nice give-and-go with her sister.

There’s a reason why the Joneses and sophomore forward Abbey Ramirez work well together.

“Me and my sister grew up with the same club team (Erie Futbol Club) and we developed the same skills,” Celeste Jones said. “We can kind of read each other. And me and Abbey started playing together last year actually. Since we’ve been in club, we still know the same techniques, even though she’s with a different club.”

As in Saturday’s tie with Elyria Catholic, the Pioneers got a commendable job from the defense, including starters Haylie Davis, Monica Backs and Emily Gebhardt, who are seniors, and junior Ashley Curtis.

Alternating liberally with younger players in the second half, the defense limited the Cardinals to just seven shots, only one on goal, and just two shots — none on target — the second half.

“My defenders know what they’re doing and even if they’re shifted over too far to one side, when I call them over, they drop right away to help me,” goalkeeper Wright said. “If I call a ball, they guard the people coming in so I don’t get trampled or anything. They’re just really amazing.”

Brookside had two reasonable chances to score in the first half.

The first came in the 14th minute when senior midfielder Megan O’Connor banged a free kick off the left goalpost following an Elyria foul. The other developed three minutes later as O’Connor and senior Sheridan Barno worked a give-and-go on the left flank. But the Pioneers’ Wright moved off her line to stifle the play.

On the subject of sisters, this year’s Pioneers roster lists four sets of siblings, including the Joneses and Natalie and freshman Julia Benko. There are also junior Michelle and freshman Erin Mariner, and junior Shania and freshman Kayla Locklear.

Ilievski was asked what has been the key factor in the team’s turnaround.

“I think the dedication of the girls themselves,” she said. “For the longest time, (opponents) have been saying, ‘Who’s Elyria? Elyria doesn’t have a program, Elyria’s never had a program.’ Me and my husband (Mike) have coached for seven years and we want to change that. We want to be competitive and we’ve stepped up our schedule.”

Elyria 4, Brookside 0

  • GOALS: (E) Celeste Jones (1st minute, 51st minute), Darian Jones (33rd minute), Natalie Benko (38th minute).
  • ASSISTS: (E) Benko, Darian Jones.
  • SHOTS: Brookside 7, Elyria 10.
  • SHOTS ON FRAME: Brookside 1, Elyria 6.
  • SAVES: (B) Arianna Sanchez 2; (E) Jami Wright 2.
  • GOAL KICKS: Brookside 8, Elyria 10.
  • CORNER KICKS: Elyria 6.
  • OFFSIDE: Brookside 1, Elyria 4.
  • HANDBALLS: None.
  • FOULS: Brookside 5, Elyria 11.
  • CARDS: (E) Austin Kothe, yellow, 37th minute.
  • HALF: Elyria, 3-0

Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or soccer@bobdaniels.info.