The Panthers, who on Wednesday became Lorain County’s first girls team to advance to a regional final, fell to Hawken School of Gates Mill, 4-1.
EC was playing for a shot at another level of Lorain County girls soccer history, a berth in next week’s Division III Final Four. Instead it will be Hawken (13-4-2) that takes on Ontario of Richland County in a state semifinal at a site and time to be announced.
Coincidentally, the Elyria Catholic boys team was eliminated by Hawken 2-0 in a regional semifinal Wednesday night on the same field.
The Panthers girls, whose season ended 14-3-4, applied early offensive pressure and were still alive and well after Hawken took a 1-0 lead on junior forward Katherine Zalar’s goal in the 19th minute.
But the culture of the game changed noticeably nine minutes later when the Hawks made it 2-0 on senior midfielder Courtney Yoke’s penalty kick. The PK was awarded after the Panthers were called for a foul in the box.
Witness: Within a minute after Yoke’s defining goal, Hawken scored again, this time on sophomore forward Daniela Birkie’s high shot that glanced off EC goalkeeper Katie Gauntner’s outstretched hand.
The Panthers were awarded a penalty kick in the 38th minute, and sophomore midfielder Jenna Ellingson put her team’s only goal into the right corner of the net. The Hawks’ Birkie nailed her second goal of the match and created the final score off a corner kick by Bianca Medancic in the 61st minute.
EC coach Tony Rozanc said that in a downcast locker room, he told his players to look back on their successes of the season.
“I told them to think back on the good times they had building up to this moment,” Rozanc said. “They have nothing to regret about the way they played today. I felt like my girls gave everything they had.
“(Hawken) was a good team, so getting down 2-0 was a hard hole to climb out of against a team that gave up only 13 goals all season. I felt we battled the entire game. We had opportunities, and if we could’ve got some at key moments, it would have been a different game.”
Someone suggested to Ellingson that the Panthers’ improbable run to a regional final — they lost six seniors to graduation in June — might be a cause for optimism looking ahead.
“This has given all our players a lot more experience,” said Ellingson, who will return in August for two more seasons. “We know what to expect more, how hard we have to play if we want to make it even farther next year. We just have to come out and try 100 times harder.”
Ellingson played the game in perpetual motion. She never stopped — except when she was given a yellow card after a low-grade show of frustration in the 61st minute.
“I really wanted us to do this,” she said. “I know our seniors wanted it so bad. You know, I have two more years, but this was their last year and I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet. It was a lot of fun and I’m proud of us.”
The loss was tough for Lauren Wisnor, a Panthers’ senior tri-captain, who played her final high school game. She suffered a left leg injury in the 38th minute and sat out the last two minutes of the first half. She returned after the break.
“In the big scheme of things, this wasn’t just about me or our team,” Wisnor said. “We were representing our whole school and community. We were more than happy to do that and you saw the number of students who came out, an hour away, to support us.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hawken 4, Elyria Catholic 1
• GOALS: (H) Daniela Birkie 2 (29th, 61st minutes), Katherine Zalar (19th minute), Courtney Yoke, PK (28th minute); (EC) Jenna Ellingson, PK (38th minute)
• ASSISTS: (H) Bianca Medancic
• SHOTS: Hawken 10, Elyria Catholic 5
• SHOTS ON GOAL: Hawken 7, Elyria Catholic 1
• SAVES: (H) Sydney Hanzlik 1. (EC) Katie Gauntner 3
• CORNER KICKS: Hawken 4, Elyria Catholic 2
• GOAL KICKS: Hawken 10, Elyria Catholic 6
• OFFSIDE: Hawken 1, Elyria Catholic 1
• HANDBALLS: Hawken 1, Elyria Catholic 2
• FOULS: Hawken 13, Elyria Catholic 5
• CARDS: (EC) Ellingson, yellow (61st minute), coach Rozanc, yellow (65th minute)
• HALF: Hawken, 3-1