MACEDONIA — Danielle Dziak had a sheepish grin on her face Tuesday night, pointing to her right hip.
“It hit right here,” she said, “and it still hurts.”
After a physical, hard-fought Division III regional semifinal win over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney at Nordonia High School, many Elyria Catholic players are probably hurting this morning. And they’re all probably smiling, too.
Dziak scored a first-half goal with that right hip and Jenna Ellingson broke a 1-1 tie with a second-half penalty kick to give the Panthers a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals.
With the win, EC (14-3-3) earned a rematch against Hawken, to be played Saturday at 3 p.m. at Twinsburg; the Hawks beat EC, 4-1, in last year’s regional final. Hawken beat Champion, 6-0, Tuesday night in the other regional semifinal.
“I thought it was a good game, two very good teams battling the whole time,” EC coach Tony Rozanc said. “It was a very physical game, but it was even. I was proud of my girls and their intensity. It’s a battle. No one wants to go home.”
Elyria Catholic controlled much of the early action, registering three shots on goal in the first seven minutes. Yet each was from long distance, and Mooney keeper Samantha Ellis corralled them.
The Panthers nearly got on the board in the 16th minute, when a long throw by Kirsten Fehlan was headed by a Mooney player to the feet of Keely Birsic. Birsic’s right-footed shot, though, hit the crossbar and bounded away.
Buoyed by that chance, the Panthers scored in the next minute: Anna Griffin carried into the Cardinal penalty area, and crossed for Dziak, standing alone near the penalty spot. It wasn’t pretty, but Dziak beat Ellis – with her hip, to the right corner.
“(Rozanc) has been stressing that I’ve been taking shots that are too pretty, that I need to toe-poke it or hit anything in,” Dziak said. “It was a big deal for me to get that one.”
Yet despite EC being in control, Mooney (12-7-1) rebounded quickly and in a way the Panthers knew they needed to prevent: with leading scorer Juliana Vazquez doing the damage. Vazquez – who scored three goals in Mooney’s district final win over Hanoverton United and had 28 on the season entering Tuesday – made a long, counter-attacking run in the 20th minute.
An EC defender tried to clear it, but did so into Vazquez’s path. The defender attempted to recover, but the speedy Vazquez beat the defender and keeper Stevie Holbrook to tie it.
“We had our chances, but they have that one impact player that, when she got the ball, even I was shaking,” Rozanc said.
EC again controlled the run of play to open the second half, with four shots on goal in the half’s first 15 minutes. Again, though, the Panthers couldn’t break through – until the 54th minute. Sara Pallendino took a Panther corner, and a teammate knocked it toward the Mooney net. The shot beat Ellis, but a Cardinal defender instinctively stopped the ball with her hand, giving EC a penalty kick.
Ellingson, who played very well in midfield in anchoring the EC attack, calmly deposited the PK in the lower right corner for a 2-1 lead.
“I really didn’t think there was more pressure (than a normal PK),” Ellingson said. “I’ve taken enough in my three years here to know what to do. I remembered how I’ve practiced them and didn’t let the keeper get in my head.”
The Panthers appeared to win another PK in the 68th minute, as Dziak made a strong run toward the Mooney box. She was taken down, but the official ruled the foul occurred outside the box, and Ellingson’s free kick was deflected wide. Eight minutes later, EC’s Andi Widmer hit the post again, keeping the score 2-1.
“I thought it was a very even game,” Mooney coach Frank Sikich said. “They may have outshot us, but there weren’t a lot that tested our goalie. They may have outplayed us on the 50-50 balls.”
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Division III Regional semifinal
Elyria Catholic 2, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney 1
GOALS: Mooney – Juliana Vazquez (20th); Elyria Catholic – Danielle Dziak (17th), Jenna Ellingson (54th).
ASSISTS Elyria Catholic – Anna Griffin.
SHOTS: Mooney 11; Elyria Catholic 23.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Mooney 6; Elyria Catholic 10.
SAVES: Mooney – Samantha Ellis 8; Elyria Catholic – Stevie Holbrook 5.
CORNER KICKS: Mooney 2; Elyria Catholic 7.
GOAL KICKS: Mooney 23; Elyria Catholic 7.
OFFSIDE: Mooney 0; Elyria Catholic 0.
FOULS: Mooney 6; Elyria Catholic 8.
CARDS: Elyria Catholic – Ellingson (68th, yellow).