By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Rocky River girls varsity soccer team has had many huge victories this season, but none were bigger than the 4-1 win over Perrysburg High School, last year’s Division I state champion, on Saturday.
“(Perrysburg) is a great team,” Rocky River head coach Patrick Hopkins said. “I told the girls prior to this game that they went 23-0 last year. They may have lost three great players (to graduation), but there are still eight girls on their squad who have won a state championship last year.
“We knew we had to go out there and really make a statement.”
The Pirates (10-0-1) have been led all season by the offensive duo of Abby Elinsky and Grace Bennett, and it was no different last Saturday.
Elinsky scored a hat trick in the first half of the game, with Bennett assisting on all three goals.
“It’s amazing how Abby and Grace work so well together,” Hopkins said.
“Grace and I just connect very well,” Elinsky added. “We practice together every day, going through the drills, and we just know where each other are supposed to be.
“That’s our job, to work together.”
“Our coach has been telling us to play close together,” Bennett explained. “So that way, we can have more combination-play.
“I just think we work really well together and I love playing with her, up top.”
Senior midfielder Megan Killeen added a second-half goal for the Pirates. Killeen’s goal was assisted by senior defender McKenna Klodnick, who has been used by Hopkins as the team’s throw-in specialist.
“McKenna saves us a great deal,” he said. “We always have the ability to get out of pressure.
“We’ll use our other girls for throws. We have two or three girls who can really throw the ball, but we use (Klodnick) to get out of pressure, and sometimes when she’s able to grab that ball and put into play quickly, at a great distance, it really alleviates that pressure on our defense, as well as powers us to move forward and score a goal.”
Hopkins is still looking for his team to improve in every game, hoping the Pirates will peak come postseason play.
“Every game, we are trying to piece some things together, to challenge in a different way,” he said. “So far, in the 11 games that we’ve played, it’s coming together really well.
“We are still making some mistakes. Great teams, like Perrysburg, will be able to capitalize on those mistakes.”
Perrysburg senior forward Sarah Quimby was able to put a shot just out of reach of Rocky River goalkeeper Sara Connelly for the lone Yellow Jackets goal, which came with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
“We have to realize that we need to finish the game,” Hopkins added. “We needed to finish that game for our keeper, because she has done a great job all year.”
Quimby’s goal was only the fourth goal given up by the Pirates all season.
“You could have the best goalkeeper, but from where that ball was coming from, I knew (Connelly) was in trouble,” Hopkins said. “The good thing is that it happened.
“One, there should have been immediate pressure on the girl who put that ball up. Second, if that happens again, she’ll make that save.”
Connelly recorded seven saves in the game, while Perrysburg goalkeeper Sarah Baer had five.
As of Sept. 16, the Pirates were ranked No. 2 in the OHSAA Division II state poll, but Hopkins wants his team to just think of winning its last game of the year.
“It’s great for the girls to get the recognition (from the polls) – they deserve it,” he said. “But I don’t care who’s ahead of us, or behind us, because at the end of the year, that’s where you’ll know where you rank in the state.”
The Pirates will host Elyria Catholic in a West Shore Conference matchup on tonight at 7 p.m.