AVON — When you’ve won two district championships in a row, sometimes you need to do something extra special to keep your fans excited.
How about scoring a goal 13 seconds into the match and adding a hat trick for excitement?
That’s exactly what Elyria Catholic did Thursday night as Sarah Pallendino scored early and Andi Widmer scored often in a 4-0 win over Wellington in the Division III girls district soccer final at Avon Stadium.
“This is something you don’t really see much. A group of girls that just keep winning districts year after year,” Elyria Catholic coach Tony Rozanc said after his team improved to 13-3-3. “It’s amazing what these girls have been able to do and I’m so proud of them.”
Since the Ohio High School Athletic Association went to three divisions in girls soccer in 2011, Elyria Catholic has won the Rocky River district each year. The team on the losing side each time has been the Dukes (10-7-2).
“That wasn’t the way I envisioned the game starting,” Wellington coach Kevin Ziegler said. “I had two girls make two mistakes and 13 seconds in we’re down a goal. The girls were really psyched about the game since Monday. That probably wasn’t a good thing. We came out really nervous and it took us about 20 minutes to settle down.”
Pallendino’s third goal of the season came after she charged in to play a ball that was mishandled by Dukes goalkeeper Kayla Sparks. Pallendino then kicked the loose ball into the open net.
“We knew going into the season that a lot of people had high expectations for us this season so we’ve been looking forward to this game since the beginning of the year,” Pallendino said. “Right before the game coach told me, ‘We’re going to play you the ball and I want you to get one in fast.’ I ran my butt off to get down the field and I did it.”
Widmer took over from there. The junior scored her first goal in the fourth minute off a Pallendino assist. She then scored two goals in a span of three minutes early in the second half to complete the natural hat trick.
“We started the game off really well. I really wanted to get back to regionals and contribute to the success of my team,” Widmer said. “After I got my second goal I was thinking about the hat trick. When I got it I was really excited because I knew we were going to be able to advance.”
The Panthers will face Youngstown Cardinal Mooney on Tuesday in the regional semifinals at Nordonia High School. The Cardinals defeated United 5-1 to win the Austintown district.
“Before the game I told the team, ‘We have to keep what’s ours,’ Rozanc said. “We knew Wellington was going to come out and play hard and we had to be ready for the challenge. We want to win a state championship and tonight I think we played about as well as we have all year.
“The goal was to build to this moment. The regular season is just practice for right now. It’s a whole new season from the first playoff game. We practice and prepare differently and we have the experience to know what we need to do.”
Wellington will only graduate four seniors from this year’s team and Ziegler hopes his team will be back to districts again next year.
“The girls worked hard this year. We’ve been to districts the last five years and played in the district final three years in a row,” he said. “We have three silver medals but that’s better than having no medals. I know there are a lot of teams that wish they were playing in the district final.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria Catholic 4, Wellington 0
GOALS: (EC) Pallendino 1st minute, Widmer 4th minute, 45th minute, 48th minute
ASSISTS: (EC) Pallendino, Roman
SAVES: (W) Sparks 9; (EC) Holbrook 3, Gauntner 2
SHOTS ON GOAL: Wellington 5, Elyria Catholic 13
FOULS: Wellington 6, Elyria Catholic 4
CORNER KICKS: Wellington 1, Elyria Catholic 10
OFFSIDES: Elyria Catholic 2
YELLOW CARD: Fehlan 53rd minute.
HALFTIME: Elyria Catholic, 2-0