The Youngstown Cardinal Mooney Cardinals came rolling into town in Berlin on Saturday, Oct. 6, where the Hiland Hawks hosted a girls and guys soccer double-header.
The two teams went home having split the day’s events, where an athletic and talented Mooney girls team dealt the Lady Hawks a 6-2 setback while the Hawks answered the bell for the nightcap and rolled to a 6-0 shutout win.
In the girls game, Mooney came storming out of the gate, driving down the field and scorching a goal before fans had even settled into their seats. The Cardinal goal 20 seconds into the contest set the stage for a stunning display of soccer.
“That’s a talented team. They are well coached and organized, and they play as a team. And when you’re playing against that, you’ve got your work cut out for you,” Hiland girls coach Connor Lee said.
Mooney kept the heat on Hiland all game long, creating a barrage of shots that had Hiland’s defense reeling.
Offensively,the Lady Hawks produced one goal in the first half when Melody Murtaugh scored off an assist from Taryn Schlabach. They also scored late, trailing 6-1, when Mia Gertz fired a corner kick to Gabby Schlabach in front of the net, where she popped it in for the score.
“It’s been three rough games against three tough opponents,” Lee said. “But the message to the girl remains the same. We are still confident in what we can do, who we are and what we can accomplish. We had good stretches of play at times in all three games, especially against St. V. and even today. We just need to continue to work on making it a full 80 minutes. The girls get it. They understand what this week was like and the talent of the teams we faced, but it still stinks to lose.”
For a team that started out super-hot, the Lady Hawks have now dropped three straight, but much of that can be attributed to the quality of their opponents. The three losses, in which they have given up 12 goals after giving up just one goal in the first 10 games of the season, came to Fairless, a solid squad, and two powerhouses in Cardinal Mooney and St. Vincent-St. Mary.
The fact that Hiland had given up just one goal in its first 10 games makes this string of three losses with 12 goals given up especially hard to take.
“I told the girls that it felt weird seeing the ball in the back of our net like that because they weren’t used to it,” Lee said. “You could tell it was kind of demoralizing. But this is soccer, and you’re going to get scored on. The message now is how are we going to respond to the adversity? That is what I am interested in seeing over our final three games of the regular season.”
The boys game was a complete reversal of fortunes as an undermanned Cardinals team had all kinds of trouble competing with Hiland’s quick front line.
The Hawks once again scored in bunches, connecting on three goals within a nine-minute span late in the first half to take command.
After dominating the first 29 minutes of play with nothing to show for it but a bunch of stopped shots and near misses, the Hawks finally found success with 11:16 left in the half when Taylor Mullet connected on a cross to Brayden Gray, who headed it into the upper-left corner for the lead. With 3:02 left in the half, Declan Howell rifled a shot off the right post. The ball ricocheted back out to where Howell was now laying on the ground. Somehow amidst a sea of people, Howell managed to rise to an elbow, swivel his hips while laying on the ground and drill a screamer by a diving keeper for a most unusual score. Less than two minutes later Gray hammered a crossing pass through the box, and Chris Miller cranked it home for a beautifully crafted goal.
“This group can be a fairly explosive offensive team, and we’ve seen that a lot in the past few games where we have scored in bunches,” Hiland coach Scott Bodiker said. “Mooney is not a bad team, but they have struggled with some injuries, and I think it took the ball rolling our way for us to gain a lot of momentum and for them to lose some self-confidence. The last couple of games that has been the case, where we have started slowly, and once we get our foot on the gas, we can keep it there.”
In the 69th minute Mullet sent a ball in to Miller, who whacked it home. Two minutes later Jadon Yoder scored when Miller fed him. In the 73rd minute what seemed like a meaningless goal had some extra meaning when Mullet scored off a fantastic feed from Miller, who led him on the run down the field where he beat the goalie with ease for the final tally.
The score marked the ninth straight game Mullet has produced a goal, a school record he set last game, so each time he scores he continues to break his own mark.
Considering Mullet played an incredibly unselfish game throughout, consistently finding teammates rather than firing off shots, his attitude toward putting the team first is impressive.
“Taylor had a couple of assists today and at times may have been almost too unselfish,” Bodiker said of the high-scoring junior. “It was great to see him get that goal. He is obviously aware of this streak, so for him to continue to be an unselfish player is important and impressive on his part.”
Hiland’s defense put together its fourth consecutive shut-out in helping the Hawks improve to 12-2-1, and Bodiker’s ability to run people in and out of the line-up wore down the depleted Cardinals, who at one point had to play with 10 players following an injury. In true spirit of the game, Bodiker removed one of his players until the injured Mooney player returned.
“I’m not sure the first three goals had anything to do with them getting tired, but we definitely wore them down in the second half,” Bodiker said. “They were definitely out of gas.”
The victory wrapped up at least a tie for the Tri-County League title for the Hawks. Earlier Hiland defeated Western Reserve Academy, who beat Kidron Central Christian. The Comets fell to WRA and tied Youngstown Mooney, so even if Hiland were to lose their rivalry game with Central on Tuesday, Oct. 9, it would produce a tie between WRA and Hiland, and the Hawks would own the tie-breaker on the strength of their win over WRA.