YORK TWP. — On a cold, rainy night, sometimes something has to happen in order for a soccer team to snap back into focus.
For the Buckeye girls, who beat Brookside 3-1 Monday in a Rocky River Division II sectional opener, it was the first goal of the game.
The Cardinals (11-4-1) woke up the Bucks (14-3) when slick midfielder Megan O’Conner found an opening and scored just 7:30 into the game.
“Truthfully, I think we came out a little too overconfident,” Buckeye coach Bud Roberts said. “We talked about (O’Connor) before the game — everything revolves around her and that we can’t leave her. We did and she scored.”
It turned out to be the Cardinals’ only real scoring threat of the night, as the Bucks came to life and earned a spot in a sectional championship game Thursday at Padua.
“It was an awakening,” Roberts said. “We’ve got eight seniors, so the leadership is there and they’ve been through it. We didn’t get depressed or let down. The intensity pushed up.”
Striking first for Buckeye was senior Hannah Hartley. As one of the Bucks’ best defenders, Hartley opened the game at sweeper and snapped a shot into the back of the net with 13:04 left in the first half.
“My adrenaline was definitely pumping,” Hartley said. “I was really excited. It definitely meant we were still in this game. We can’t give up now. We have to keep trying so we can advance.”
After notching the equalizer, Hartley moved back to defense and fellow senior Samantha Sibley took over.
Just six minutes later, Sibley gave the Bucks the lead for good when she scored the first of what she called two lucky goals.
“We just tried to keep our heads up and keep on going,” Sibley said. “I think we realized that we really had to pick it up.”
The Bucks pushed the tempo for the remainder of the game, getting off 17 shots on the night — 11 on goal — and wearing out the turf on the offensive side of the pitch.
“We’ve been practicing a lot to allow minimal touches,” Hartley said. “It really helped today and with it being wet, we always seem to play faster.”
Sibley scored her second goal of the night 12 minutes into the second half to lock up the win.
“We play a defensive system and we counter,” Brookside coach Zoran Cancar said. “That’s how we’ve played all season and that’s how we’ve been successful this season. With the personnel we have, that’s what we had to play.
“When you go up against a team that possesses the ball a lot, you have to wait for them to make a mistake and you counter them like we did for the first goal.”
Buckeye 3, Brookside 1
- GOALS: (Br) Megan O’Connor; (Bu) Hannah Hartley, Samantha Sibley 2.
- ASSISTS: (Bu) Courtney Tomas, Jordan Davis.
- SHOTS-ON-GOAL: Brookside 3, Buckeye 11.
- GOALIES: (Br) Arianna Sanchez 8 saves; (Bu) Jessica Banas 2.
- HALFTIME: Buckeye, 2-1.
Contact Chad Grant at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.