NORTH OLMSTED — It was only a tie, but it gave credibility to the “new-and-improved” stamp on North Olmsted’s girls soccer team.
The Eagles, trailing perennial toughie Westlake 1-0, fought back with a late first-half goal to tie the Demons 1-1 in a Soutwestern Conference nail-biter on Wednesday night. The Eagles (2-1-3) played the last several minutes deep in the Westlake end and had chances to win.
North Olmsted had its ups and downs in 2006 before a strong finish under first-year coach Erika Kleinholz, who introduced a new system and new enthusiasm to the program.
This year, the system is paying dividends. The Eagles’ other ties were against always powerful Magnificat and Holy Name, the Division II state champion last November. Their only loss has been to state power Hathaway Brown.
It looked for a time as though Westlake (3-1-2) might dominate. The Demons got their lead when Natalie Bechtel scored in the 19th minute with an assist from Brooke Henderson. It came at a time when they had outshot North Olmsted 3-1 and were in control of midfield.
But the goal gave the Eagles a boost. Alyssa Balasko put a shot right on Demons keeper Krysta Falasca in the 23rd minute. The Eagles’ Christine Sindelar controlled the rebound and zinged another shot off the left goalpost just a second later.
Four mintues later, Sindelar got a pass ahead to Jenna Madison, who forced Falasca to make another save, and Kelsi Fisher fired a shot just to the right of the Westlake net in the 33rd minute. This set the stage for Erika Wilhelm and her goal, which tied the game after a corner kick by Alyssa Foldesy in the 38th minute.
“My teammate Alyssa Foldesy played (a corner kick) past the goal,” said Wilhelm, a junior midfielder and defender. “It bounced in the box. I kind of reached in for a header and got lucky. It went in.”
North Olmsted picked up the pace in the second half and had several opportunities to win, but couldn’t find the net.
“We had so many chances,” said Kleinholz. “We were within 20 yards of their goal the last three minutes. We need to finish finishing and that’s what we’re going to work on.”
Westlake coach Scott Jones said he was disappointed in the outcome, but impressed with the improvement in North Olmsted.
“Anytime Westlake and North Olmsted play it’s going to be a good game,” he said. “They’ve got some good athletes and they played hard. We didn’t play our best. The girls played their hearts out, but we’re going to keep trying to get better. At times we didn’t have it tonight, but we’re going to get it.”
Westlake 1, North Olmsted 1
Goals: (W) Natalie Bechtel, (NO) Erika Wilhelm.
Assists: (W) Brooke Henderson.
Shots: Westlake 7, North Olmsted 10.
Shots on target: Westlake 4, North Olmsted 5.
Saves: (W) Krysta Falasca 6, (NO) Vasi Collander 4.
Infractions: Westlake 11, North Olmsted 9.
Corner kicks: Westlake 5, North Olmsted 2.
Offside: Westlake 1, North Olmsted 2.