It was a historic day for the Brookside girls soccer program last Thursday. Not only were the Lady Cardinals hosting their first-ever postseason game in the Division II bracket, but they pulled off a win to get its first-ever sectional championship. The Lady Cards defeated Firelands 2-1 on penalty kicks after the game went overtime. It was Brookside’s first playoff win since beating Oberlin in 2009.
“I am very proud of the team this year as many other coaches, players and the media thought that we would struggle this year after losing such a prolific player in Megan O’ Connor,” Brookside head coach Zoran Cancar said. “They proved everyone wrong going further than any other team in Brookside girls soccer history. I think more and more girls will start wanting to be a part of that culture we will build a consistent sustainable program for years to come.”
The fifth-seeded Lady Cardinals got on the scoreboard first when senior Jayleene Minissale connected on a 35-yard blast 11 minutes into the contest. Firelands tied it up 1-1 off a goal from Alyssa Melendez.
“Our game plan going in was very simple,” Cancar said. “When we play loose and relaxed we can do some very special things. The team was prepared and no one expected them to be in that game in the first place, so there was nothing to lose for us and everything to gain.
“Defensively I thought we played very well and composed, and only allowed one real chance which they scored on. Offensively as the game wore on the tired legs began to show, but we were very unlucky not to score on a few opportunities. As I told the girls, “It’s good to be alive, so go out there and enjoy it!” and they certainly did.”
Going into overtime and eventually penalty kicks, senior goalkeeper Arianna Sanchez saved three penalty kicks for the Lady Cardinals. Junior defender Vanessa Vanzant struck the final penalty kick for Brookside, giving them the victory.
“It certainly was intense,” Cancar said. “The emotion of the game is so special in soccer. The PK shootout is the most intense moments in sport, when one is saved, missed, or successful, emotions go all over the place, going up and down, but throughout it I kept smiling and encouraging the girls and they feed off of that positive energy. I really feel that’s what put us through. Then when Arianna Sanchez saved that final PK all of that emotion came out, fans stormed the field, and you can’t believe that you were apart of that special moment.”
Sanchez finished the game with five saves, improving Brookside to 9-4-4 overall. Firelands fell to 11-6-1. The Lady Cardinals take on Rocky River on Monday in the district semifinals. If they win, they will play the winner of the Holy Name/Bay matchup on Thursday.
“For a very young team with only two seniors and eight freshmen and sophomores, you can’t ask for a better situation to hold up to the pressure,” Cancar said. “We really grew as a team as the season went on and they believe in this program and what they represent.
“The win is not only big for the program but the community as well. Sheffield is starting to establish itself as a soccer community in Lorain County, and we will continue to build this culture. Now that the girls know how it feels to win a game like that, they will want to be here every year and they will believe that they can do it.”