Kristen Hazlett, left, goes up for a header along with Rocky
River’s Lindsey Mikula in last week’s sectional championship
game at River. (West Life photo by Larry Bennet)
finish strong, claim first league crown
By Jim Horvath
Published Oct. 22, 2008
For the Rocky
River girls soccer team, a slow start and a broken leg have been
transformed into something nobody could have imagined.
How about the
program’s first league championship and a sectional crown?
of head coach Patrick Hopkins finished 6-1 in the West Shore Conference
to earn a share of the league title with Bay and Avon. Last week,
River got its second-straight win over Bay, 1-0, to win the sectional
This past Monday,
the Pirates advanced to the district level in Division I as they
took on top-seeded Westlake in a semifinal game. The winner of that
game would play the winner of the North Olmsted-Magnificat contest
in the district championship game.
“This was the
first time we’ve left the field in a tournament game with Bay and
we weren’t the team crying,” said Hopkins of last week’s win over
Emily Maurer scored off a corner kick by senior Katie Kilgore with
25 minutes remaining for the only goal of the game. The Pirates
had a number of missed opportunities in the second half, but wound
up getting the one they needed.
“It was a game
of two halves,” said Hopkins. “Bay came out hard in the first half,
and our goalie, Lauren Davis, came up big and made a couple of beautiful
“We made a few
adjustments at halftime, and they didn’t get a lot of quality shots
against us in the second half. If they would have scored a goal
on us in the first half, though, it may have been a different story,”
the play of senior Justine Beres helped River control the ball at
midfield, and that Davis, a junior, had done a fine job since replacing
starting goalie Kim Leitch last month.
Leitch, a freshman,
broke her leg in the final minutes of the Vermilion game on Sept.
17. While he lost his goalie, Hopkins felt the season took a turn
for the better the rest of the way.
“Kim came out
to stop a shot and there was a collision,” said Hopkins. “It was
nobody’s fault, just a hard play. She’s a tough kid, and her surgery
went well. She’ll be back stronger than ever next season.
“But I’d say
that was actually the turning point of our season,” he said. “The
next day, the team got together and decided they wanted to make
a run at it. It was a great turnaround, because up to that point
we were playing around .500 ball. Lauren came up to me a volunteered
to take over for Kim. She’s not really a goalie, but she did play
some in a backup role last year.
“We wound up
with nine shutouts on the season, and that was great. I think the
school record for shutouts is nine, so Kim and Lauren combined to
get that done,” he said.
The team stepped
up despite adversity a number of times throughout the season, said
Hopkins. A 3-2 loss to Lakewood was followed by a 0-0 tie against
Magnificat, a team that had defeated them 8-0 two years ago in tournament
were up, 2-1, against Chagrin Falls but wound up settling for a
2-2 tie. They rebounded with a 2-0 win over Oregon Clay, giving
that team its only loss of the season. Then a 2-1 win over Bay put
them in a position to get a share of the league title.
beaten Bay three times in the history of our program,” said Hopkins.
“Now we have two in one season. Since I’ve been here, the games
have been close. We’ve had 1-0 leads at the half, only to lose the
game in the end.
“The kids kept
getting closer and closer, and it was just a matter of time before
they broke through,” he said. “This year, we came out and took care