TWINSBURG — If you’d told Elyria Catholic coach Tony Rozanc before Saturday’s Division III regional final against Hawken that Kat Zalar and Bianca Medancic would be relatively shut down, he’d have liked his chances.
The Hawks’ dynamic duo, which had combined for 44 goals entering the game, certainly enjoyed their moments against the Panthers, but each was kept off the scoresheet.
Instead, the Hawks got a wonderful goal from a less known, yet still formidable, duo — a 20th-minute header by Maggie Canitia on a corner kick by Mackenzie Lesnick that gave them a 1-0 victory and put Hawken into the state semifinal for the second straight season.
For EC, the loss was bittersweet — another phenomenal year, yet a second straight loss at this stage, in this stadium, to this team, to end the Panthers’ season.
“I’m really proud of how our team did this season,” senior Danielle Dziak said. “We’ve had some big wins this season and I have no doubt (Hawken) is going to the state final. To hold them to one goal is a great accomplishment. I’m proud that we didn’t let them roll over us.”
Zalar and Medancic controlled a good bit of the run of play in the midfield and up front, yet save for one chance late in the first half by Zalar, the Panthers defense locked them up well. Rozanc, like he did Tuesday against Youngstown Mooney and standout forward Juliana Vazquez, chose to stick with what has worked and did not man-mark the Hawks duo, and it worked.
But the game turned on a quick sequence midway through the first half. The Panthers (14-4-3), who hadn’t had many opportunities through the first 20 minutes, felt they earned a penalty kick after Andi Widmer hit the turf inside the Hawks’ penalty area. No call was given, though, and Hawken quickly went on the counter.
Zalar, who’s scored 23 goals this season, pressured going the other way and earned a corner kick for the Hawks, taken by Lesnick. Rozanc said he worried about defending Hawken restarts, and in this instance his worries were merited — Canitia headed in the well-placed corner over EC keeper Stevie Holbrook, who got a glove on the ball but couldn’t tip it over the crossbar.
“We were really going to let them cross all they wanted to and shoot from long range,” Rozanc said. “We knew our center backs could handle it, and it worked pretty well. On that corner, she got up really high and the ball got over our keeper. Otherwise, I’m thinking we’re going to OT. Defensively, we played about as well as we have.”
After the goal, the Panthers regained some control and generated chances on the Hawks’ end, though each was a long effort from Keely Brsic. Rozanc said after the game that he thought the Panthers’ best chances would come on free kicks and corners, and Brsic took three good shots in a seven-minute span. Each time, though, Hawken keeper Hannah O’Day was up to the task, including on a free kick in the 32nd minute from 25 yards that took a funky hop off the slick turf.
Brsic had a couple more chances — each on free kicks — in the second half, the first a well-struck shot that sailed just over the crossbar in the 50th minute and later, on a longer effort, that was headed by a Hawks player toward the net but saved by O’Day.
Hawken (15-1-5) plays Oak Harbor, a 2-1 winner over Findlay Liberty-Benton on Saturday, in a state semifinal Tuesday. Hawks coach Stan Shulman, whose team beat EC 4-1 in the regional final last season, said he was impressed with the Panthers.
“One goal is all it takes sometimes, especially in a regional final, with two excellent teams playing against each other,” Shulman said. “Give EC a ton of credit, they played well and are going to be back.”
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hawken 1, Elyria Catholic 0
GOALS: (H) Maggie Canitia (21st).
ASSISTS: (H) Mackenzie Lesnick.
SHOTS: Elyria Catholic 6, Hawken 14.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Elyria Catholic 3, Hawken 9.
SAVES: (EC) Stevie Holbrook 8; (H) Hannah O’Day 3.
CORNER KICKS: Elyria Catholic 1, Hawken 5.
GOAL KICKS: Elyria Catholic 13, Hawken 6.
OFFSIDE: Elyria Catholic 0, Hawken 0.
FOULS: Elyria Catholic 4, Hawken 13.
CARDS: (EC) Bench (26th, yellow); (H) Kat Zalar (59th, yellow).