Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
The Hiland Lady Hawks wanted a crack at top-seeded and highly touted Zanesville Rosecrans in this year’s East district Div. II final. Thanks to a pair of stunning upsets that saw them top number-two-seed Philo, followed by number-three-seed Harrison Central, the number-five-seed Lady Hawks got their wish. On Saturday, Oct. 28 on a cold, rainy day at Quaker Stadium in New Philadelphia, the Lady Hawks got to finally take their shot at a Bishops team that was averaging 14 goals per contest in the tournament.
The Lady Hawks could take solace in the fact that they limited Rosecrans well below their tournament average, but it did little to quell the pain of a 7-0 loss that knocked Hiland from the tournament ranks and sent the Bishops into regional play.
Hiland actually came out playing some very determined defense against a group that can rack up scores at an alarming clip. Rosecrans has 15 players on its team, and a mind-boggling 13 of those players participate in club soccer.
That showed up as the Bishops controlled the tempo and controlled the ball much of the game. Hiland’s most successful opportunities saw Alexis Raber trying to use her blistering speed to outrun Bishops defenders to through balls. At one point in the first half, Mia Gertz broke through on a through ball and had a golden opportunity to punch one home, but her final touch rolled the ball just inches too far in front of her, and Rosecrans keeper dove and forced the ball up and out over the end line.
Other than that, the Bishops controlled the ball well, their precision passing and patience along with their incredible depth providing plenty of offensive chances.
After thwarting a number of Rosecrans pushes toward their goal, Hiland finally saw Rosecrans break through at the 34:00 mark of the first half when Kylan Harper drove home a screamer. Less than two minutes later the Bishops scorched the net again, this time the goal coming from Claire Creeks at the 32:02 mark.
Rosecrans kept up its relentless pressure throughout the game, and at 20:46 Emma Zemba curled in a shot to make it 3-0.
Despite the deficit, Hiland’s defense continued to play hard and did a nice job of limiting the damage. However, with 5:33 to play in the half, Harper hammered home her second goal, and Rosecrans took a 4-0 lead into the locker room.
While Rosecrans scored three times in the second half as they continued to move the ball freely and precisely, the Lady Hawks’ defense actually did a respectable job of keeping the high-octane Rosecrans offense from piling up goals the way they had in their previous two games.
While Hiland was eliminated from tournament play and Jeremy Kauffman’s team saw their season come to a screeching halt, they can take solace in the fact that a rough season ended on a very high note.
In the tournament the Lady Hawks played all three of the top seeds, an unusual scenario for any team. In those three games they were able to come away with a pair of wins, and Kauffman said he felt the program continued to take steps in the right direction, something he said is validated by the team’s play and success in the tournament.
“We have worked hard to teach the girls the right way to play and encouraged them to keep working on their skills and their knowledge,” Kauffman said. “I firmly believe that we have seen this team take a lot of steps in the right direction this year. It may not show in our win total, but we are learning to play the game the right way.”