October 26, 2014

Elyria
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Sisters provide spark: Samantha and Kayla Sparks lead Wellington past Cuyahoga Heights in district soccer semifinal

Wellington's Madison Schneider goes up against Cuyahoga Heights' Caylee Cunningham on Monday night. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Wellington’s Madison Schneider goes up against Cuyahoga Heights’ Caylee Cunningham on Monday night. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

WELLINGTON — It wasn’t really the Sparks Sisters Show, the work of freshman forward Samantha and junior goalkeeper Kayla.

It was much more a collective triumph than that Monday afternoon when Wellington knocked off Cuyahoga Heights 2-0 in a Division III district semifinal.

It’s just that they’re sisters, and Samantha scored both goals and Kayla put up a shutout and the Dukes advanced in the wind and gathering gloom. The teams escaped a cold rain that began to fall just after the match ended.

The Dukes improved to 10-6-2, while the Redskins’ season ended at 10-7-2.

Wellington’s reward is a 7 p.m. Thursday district final date with Elyria, a 5-1 winner over Lutheran West on Monday night.
Thursday’s site is yet to be determined.

In an animated and tense match, Wellington held a 1-0 lead from the sixth minute — when Sam Sparks scored her first goal, with Elizabeth Bowman assisting — until Sparks scored again in the 78th minute, less than two minutes from the end.

Until Sparks hooked a 25-yard shot around the left goalpost to create the final score, it was still anybody’s match and some Wellington fans, such as coach Kevin Ziegler, were anything but relaxed.

He was asked what he thought when Sparks made the score 2-0.

“Just relief,” he said. “With not much time left and a two-goal lead, it’s like, good. A mistake doesn’t kill you.”
Sparks said she and her teammates had similar thoughts.

“It was a little weight off our shoulders but not a lot, because we still had to go hard,” she said. “We knew there’s no letting up, but there was a lot of relief.”

To prove it was more than a two-girl effort, the Dukes got outstanding work from a defense that included — among several others — juniors Brittany Evans and Jessica Quinn, and seniors Jennifer Echstenkamper and Janelle Pitts.

“Our defense has been strong all year because we’ve really meshed well together,” Echstenkamper said. “If the ball gets past, we all know where to go, we fill in and we never stop. Our philosophy is to go hard, even if we’re scored on, never give up.”

The defenders’ efforts weren’t lost on Kayla Sparks, the keeper.

“We all worked so well together today,” she said. “Whenever someone was open, I knew who was going to be there. We were automatically running back and we had the outsides covered really well. They weren’t able to get their crosses through the back, because their philosophy is to try to slot through the back, but we didn’t allow that.”

The impetus for the Dukes’ first goal came courtesy of junior forward Brittany Mariast, who got the ball ahead to Bowman, who moved down the left side and fired a left-footed shot right on the Redskins goal. Keeper Jenna Stegmaier made the stop, but couldn’t control the rebound. Sam Sparks did.

“I was just lucky to be there to finish the goal,” Sparks said.

Wellington had other chances, as well. Sam Sparks and Mariast worked a nice give-and-go in the 37th minute, but Mariast missed just over the crossbar with her hard shot.

Late in the match, sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Calfo got off two nifty crossing passes that didn’t quite connect, and sophomore mid Madison Schneider put a shot on target near the Redskins’ left goalpost that keeper Jenna Stegmaier covered.

“It was a well-played game on both sides and both sides had opportunities to score,” Ziegler said. “A lot of it was about the wind. We wanted them to have to kick into the wind (in the second half). They’re a team that likes to shoot from the outside and the wind tends to stand those shots up.”

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

Wellington 2, Cuyahoga Heights 0
GOALS: (W) Samantha Sparks 2 (6th, 78th minutes).
ASSIST: (W) Elizabeth Bowman.
SAVES: (CH) Jenna Stegmaier 4; (W) Kayla Sparks 5.
SHOTS: Cuyahoga Heights 7; Wellington 7.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Cuyahoga Heights 4; Wellington 4.
CORNER KICKS: Cuyahoga Heights 2; Wellington 2.
GOAL KICKS: Cuyahoga Heights 7; Wellington 3.
OFFSIDE: Wellington 1.
HANDBALLS: Wellington 1.
DROPBALL: 1 (59TH minute following injury).
FOULS/INFRACTIONS: Cuyahoga Heights 6; Wellington 8.
YELLOW CARDS: (W) Janelle Pitts (22nd minute), Madison Schneider (68th).
HALF: Wellington, 1-0.