“It’s my house, come on, turn it up,
Hear a knock on the door and the night begins.
Cause we done this before so you come on in.
Welcome to my house.”
Flo Rida’s song titled “My House” is a wildly popular one in the sports world, but it is particularly fitting for West Holmes senior defender Katy Vaccariello.
Welcome to Vaccariello’s house. It’s about 60 meters by 80 metes in area, and has a grass covering for carpet. She runs the house with great passion, and anyone who enters her house without her permission, well, they are going to have to face the reality that they are going to get unceremoniously ushered out of her house.
On Monday, Oct. 24 at River View High School, the highly touted John Glenn tried to enter Vaccariello’s house.
That didn’t turn out so well for the Little Muskies.
Vaccariello ruled her house with an iron fist and a golden boot, and the ninth seeded Lady Knights dealt number two seed John Glenn a 2-0 defeat to advance to district finals.
Make no mistake, this West Holmes win was a true team effort, but Vaccariello put forth what may have been the finest effort of any Holmes County athlete this fall in any sport.
Every time John Glenn even had thoughts of attacking the goal, they were shown the door by Vaccariello’s big right leg, her hustle, he speed, her tenacity, they all came to the forefront in a showcase of exactly how good a defender can be.
“This game was everything for me tonight,” Vaccariello said. “This is my senior year, and it was make-or-break time, and I want to go as far as we possibly can. I have a lot of confidence in this team and I think we can go a long way. This is all about team, and the one thing I hope after it is all over is that some of my aggressiveness has rubbed off on some of the younger players.”
Although West Holmes came into the game a much lower seed that the 13-3-1 Little Muskies, they did come in with some steam, having dealt John Glenn a 3-0 loss early in this season.
But that was then, and this was now, and the now took a turn for the better in the first half when West Holmes connected on a direct kick from senior midfielder Natalie Parsons, who smoked a free look high over the head of John Glenn keeper Brittany Smith to make it 1-0.
“It was important about going out early and getting on top,” said West Holmes coach Brooke Mower.
Not long after, with about nine minutes to play in the half, West Holmes had a golden opportunity to add to the lead when Whitney Miller made several sensational moves, slicing through three John Glenn defenders to draw a foul in the box.
Ali Gilt took the PK, but her shot to the right of the box was knocked down by Smith.
It could have been a huge momentum swing, and John Glenn began attacking with ferocity.
“That was mental toughness to finish out a half,” Mower said. “To get through that time without conceding a goal was huge.”
Credit must go to the whole Lady Knights defense during that stretch. Maddie DeWitt and Kaylin Martin came up big, and Savannah Rogers made a pair of saves, one of them a tough leaping snap that looked like it might get over her. But Vaccariello thwarted several big John Glenn runs simply out of shear will and determination.
“We look at each other as coaches and just are amazed,” Mower said of Vaccariello. “She uses her body so well. Her quickness, her power, her mental toughness… we are fortunate to have someone like that patrolling the defensive end.”
Vaccariello said it wasn’t her as much as the entire team that made the shut-out a reality. She said she has been working a lot with Martin as a defender, and noted that the sophomore is coming along well. Vaccariello’s aggressive nature is even rubbing off on the more mild-mannered Martin, who was tagged for a yellow card for going in hard for a slide tackle.
The foul was something her coach actually relished.
“She is always smiling and I don’t think she has ever been in trouble,” Mower said with a laugh. “It was exciting to see her attack and go in and attack aggressively. We like seeing that.”
While West Holmes had a few shots on goal the second half after they extended the lead, it was the defense that took center stage. The Lady Knights met every single John Glenn threat, knocked down passes, stole balls and never really allowed the little Muskies to get a decent look at the net.
It was Vaccariello’s house on this night, and the welcome mat was definitely not on the front door.
And after thwarting John Glenn’s monster effort the final nine minutes of the first half, the tide would turn again early in the second.
“We talked to the girls at half-time, and told them that the first 10 minutes was going to be key,” said Mower. “That was where the game was going to be won. Someone was going to get a goal, and that team was probably going to win the game.”
It was the Lady Knights who struck five minutes into the half, when Kerri Wagner hit a perfect chip shot over the head of Smith, giving West Holmes a 2-0 lead.
From there out, West Holmes simply didn’t make any mistakes in upsetting the number two seed.
Mower said that playing in the rugged Ohio Cardinal Conference has prepared her team well for the rigors of tournament play. While they may be a lower seed, the Lady Knights certainly don’t have the look of a middling team.
Now at 8-7-2, West Holmes looks like the hunter instead of the huntee, and Mower said they feel as though they have a chip on their should and a lot to prove to those who voted them in the lower half of the district field.
“We are mad that we got the ninth seed in the tournament,” Mower said. “Even though we were playing the two-seed, we weren’t scared. We were not intimidated. We came out excited about the opportunity, and we played our game. I couldn’t be more proud of these girls. We have played a tough schedule, and even though our record doesn’t look that impressive, I think we have a team that is ready to succeed.”