WELLINGTON — Since August, Wellington girls soccer coach Kevin Ziegler has dedicated part of every training session to converting centering passes into goal-scoring opportunities.
On Monday, that repetition paid dividends when junior midfielder Elizabeth Bowman positioned herself perfectly on the back post to receive a centering pass from Brittany Evans and then drove it home for the only goal as the Dukes defeated Cuyahoga Heights 1-0 in a Division III district semifinal.
With the win, Wellington (11-5-2) earned a rematch with Elyria Catholic for the district championship. Last year the Dukes’ season ended with a 4-0 loss to the Panthers in the district title game.
“All year we’ve been practicing midfielder getting back side on the cornering passes and I get yelled at because I am never there because it’s so much running,” Bowman said. “And the one day I got up there and got my body in front of the ball we scored. I was so happy I almost started crying.”
Bowman’s goal in the 53rd minute came after a sloppily played first half inwhich both teams seemed content to play kick and chase without setting up much of an offensive attack.
“At halftime I asked the girls if they felt the chaos on the field that we were seeing from the sideline and they said yes,” Ziegler said. “So we talked about working on slowing things down and possessing the ball more and stretching the field. Everybody is nervous coming into a game like this because it’s lose and go home.”
The Redskins had the first good scoring chance of the second half in the 45th minute when midfielder Nina LiPuma took a shot that deflected off the right hand of Wellington goalkeeper Kayla Sparks. The ball rebounded off the goalpost and came back to strike Sparks in the face before bouncing away from the goal.
“There were some iffy moments (in the second half) but I knew I had to give everything I had,” said Sparks, who had nine saves.
After the Dukes scored, they changed formations to play with an extra defender. However, Cuyahoga Heights still managed a number of solid scoring chances midway through the second half.
“I knew there would be a lot more pressure once we got up a goal because then the other team wants to work even harder to get the tying goal,” Sparks said. “In the final minute I was shaking back there I was so nervous.”
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Sophomore goalkeeper Jenna Stegmaier made eight saves in a losing effort for the Redskins, who ended the season 11-4-3.
Now the Dukes have two days to figure out how to overcome their early game jitters and get ready for an All-Lorain County district final.
Surely more work on centering passes will be on the practice agenda.
“We were in this position last year and we just couldn’t get a goal,” Sparks said. “This year all we can do is practice harder and be ready for Thursday.”
Wellington 1, Cuyahoga Heights 0
- GOALS: (W) Bowman (53rd minute)
- ASSISTS: (W) Evans
- SAVES: (CH) Stegmaier, 8; (W) Sparks, 9
- SHOTS ON GOAL: Cuyahoga Heights 9, Wellington 9
- FOULS: Cuyahoga Heights 4, Wellington 9
- CORNER KICKS: Cuyahoga Heights 2, Wellington 3
- OFFSIDES: Cuyahoga Heights 1
- HAMFTIME: 0-0
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.