West Shore Conference
By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Rocky River girls varsity soccer team has set a path of destruction through its schedule to this point in the season. With last Wednesday’s 4-0 win over West Shore Conference rival Avon, the Pirates improve their record to 8-0-1, and (as of game-day) stand at No. 3 in the Division II OHSAA state rankings.
“We’ve been building this for the past couple of years, and we’ve been doing really well,” Rocky River head coach Patrick Hopkins said. “We have a lot of seniors and upperclassmen who contribute.
“We even have younger players like sophomore Emily Soltes, in the back – how smooth and calm is she? – and Eva Schneider.”
Schneider, a junior, has made a verbal commitment to play soccer at Valparaiso University after her high school career.
“Eva is having a great year and she’s controlling the back and the midfield,” Hopkins explained. “I can put her anywhere and she will make a difference. Eva has worked really hard this offseason on her goals and her objectives, even in her personal life. She has high expectations for herself. She really dictates the way we play, and I’ve seen it throughout the year.”
Hopkins has great admiration for the way his team has jelled.
“These girls really work very well together,” he said. “I focus a lot on understanding where your players are on the field, and when they use each other, we’re able to do great things. They’re a great group to work with, and they’re a lot of fun.”
It seemed that every time Avon tried to mount an attack, there were two or three Pirates there to defend, no matter where they were on the field.
The Pirates earned some much needed rest after last Wednesday’s game, not returning to action until tonight at North Ridgeville.
“We are tired,” Hopkins said. “Last Monday (on Labor Day), we were on a bus to Coshocton for two and a half hours, played a game, and came home. Then we played Midview on Wednesday, and we were gone until 10:30 at night. On Friday we pulled them out of school early to get on a bus to Indianapolis, and we didn’t get home until late Sunday night. So, we put in a lot of miles and it’s good to be home.”
The only blip on the Pirates’ record is the tie with Sacred Heart High School (Kentucky), and senior goalkeeper Sara Connelly has recorded six shoutouts through nine games.
Rocky River senior Grace Bennett was credited with the first goal of the game, when she made a crossing pass in front of the Avon goal, but it was inadvertently hit in by an Eagles defender. The next two Pirates’ goals were put in by senior Abby Elinsky, with the second goal being assisted by junior Jillian Krebs. Krebs scored in the second half to give the Pirates the 4-0 advantage.
“Jillian probably played one her best games of the year,” Hopkins said. “At one point in the game, we used the width of the field, and she was the girl who shot down the sidelines and had the patience and the calmness to stop the ball. Her momentum took her out of bounds, but she had the calmness to step back onto the field and put a beautiful pass for Abby to score on the header.”
The loss was the first of the year for Avon (3-1-3), but the Eagles head coach Danie Schnaufer knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle at Rocky River.
“We knew coming in that (Rocky River) could finish,” she said. “They have 49 goals on the season, and have two players with more goals than our entire team combined. After that early mistake, we started to fall apart. They’re a great team, and I have a feeling they are going to do some great things this season.
“We are hoping to take what we learned here tonight, and use it for the second half of the season.”
Avon continues its conference schedule tonight, when the Eagles host Bay at 7 p.m.