WELLINGTON — Jessica Zurcher, who ranks second on Firelands’ all-time career goal-scoring list, nailed the 100th of her four-year varsity career Wednesday afternoon.
It came on a 30-yard free kick in the 12th minute of the Falcons’ important Patriot Athletic Conference match with Wellington.
Later in the half, Zurcher again launched a free kick from about 25 yards that looked at first blush as though it might also connect. But Dukes goalkeeper Kayla Sparks made a nice save. This left Zurcher within striking distance of Rachel Melendez, who graduated from Firelands in 2009 and holds the school record of 103 career goals.
As it turned out, The Falcons (9-3-2, 5-2-1 PAC) didn’t need another goal. They hung on for the next 68 minutes and went back to Henrietta Township with a 1-0 victory. Wellington, which came away with a satisfying tie with Division I Amherst on Monday, dropped to 8-3-2, 5-2-1.
Zurcher said she wasn’t exactly confident her game-winning free kick would connect.
“Coach (Andy Gibson) has been working with me this year on striking the ball correctly, which I guess I don’t do right,” Zurcher said. “I looked over at him and he was just pointing at his laces, and I never shoot with my laces. So I thought, ‘OK, I’ll hit it with my laces,’ and it went right in. I was so happy. That was a great feeling.”
Meanwhile, with strong support from the defenders in front of her, sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Dostall logged her third shutout of the season. She said she wasn’t concerned about the win, except on the restarts after Firelands fouls.
“On the free kicks, I usually get a little nervous, actually more than when they’re coming down the field,” she said. “But I thought I played pretty well today, so I’m happy.”
Wellington coach Kevin Ziegler said his team didn’t come up short because it lacked scoring chances.
“Soccer’s a funny game,” Ziegler said. “Sometimes things fall your way and sometimes they don’t. It wasn’t like we had no chances tonight. We had chances. We hit the bar, we missed a one-on-one, and on our one restart shot down there, the girl made a great stop. Honestly, I think Firelands outplayed us. They came in here to play and they played a darn good soccer game.”
Supporting Ziegler’s assessment, Dukes sophomore forward Julia Marks put a shot right on the Falcons’ goal in the first minute, but Dostall handled it routinely. Marks was on target again in the 31st minute. But again Dostall made the save and Marks hit the rebound just wide left. And with a shot that could have changed the course of play, Marks banged a rocket loudly off the Firelands crossbar in the 35th minute.
Again, in the 61st minute, Marks hit a free kick that required Dostall to make a difficult save and again she put Dostall to work with a free kick in the 68th minute that was right on target.
This is not to say the Falcons didn’t have chances to widen the margin.
Junior Alyssa Melendez — Rachel’s sister — fired a shot that went just over the crossbar in the 42nd minute. Also, Zurcher got off a shot that looked as though it might sneak past the right goalpost in the 69th minute, but was just wide of the mark.
Gibson, the Firelands coach, said he alerted his players in the pre-game.
“I told the kids coming in that Wellington is probably better technically than us,” he said. “They’re bigger than we are, but I thought our athleticism would really pay off. One of the things we’re trying to do this year is possess the ball. The girls have continued to work hard on that and I told them, we’re not going to chase them around. If we make them chase us, I thought we could use our depth to kind of wear them down a little bit.”
Firelands 1, Wellington 0
- GOALS: (F) Jessica Zurcher, 12th minute.
- SHOTS: Firelands 7, Wellington 9.
- SHOTS ON FRAME: Firelands 4, Wellington 5.
- SAVES: (F) Stephanie Dostall 3; (W) Kayla Sparks3.
- GOAL KICKS: Firelands 7, Wellington 4.
- HANDBALLS: Wellington 1.
- FOULS: Firelands 10, Wellington 10.
- CARDS: (W) Julia Marks, yellow, 21st minute.
- HALF: Firelands, 1-0.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.