ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – The Pirates have the Falcons’ number. On a cool, breezy Wednesday evening at Rocky River Stadium, Rocky River and Firelands battled in a postseason match for a third consecutive October. On Wednesday, the Pirates prevailed, 4-0. And that’s nothing new.
Rocky River ousted Firelands from sectional play in both 2017 and 2016. In a regular season game earlier this fall, the Pirates shut out the Falcons, 3-0. With a 5-0 regular-season win over Firelands in 2016, River is now 5-0 against the Falcons over the last three years.
No. 4-seed Rocky River (9-6-2) got a pair of goals from Lizzie Hamker and two more as they downed the No. 5 seed in the sectional/district brackets. In a one-sided affair, the Pirates outshot the Falcons, 31-2.
The Pirates opened scoring in the match just two minutes in when an Annie O’Toole cross from the right corner was knocked down but not controlled by Firelands goalkeeper Peyton Phillips. Lizzie Hamker was on the doorstep to bang a shot past Phillips into the back of the net. Hamker’s first of the night lifted River to a 1-0 lead.
With Rocky River’s ball-control skills and defensive prowess on display, and with Firelands playing into the wind in the opening half, the 1-0 lead loomed like a five-goal advantage throughout much of the opening 40 minutes. In fact, the visitors wouldn’t manage an extended possession on the River side of the playing field until the final minute of the first half.
Just past the midpoint of the first half – in the 21st minute – a well-threaded corner kick off the right foot of Allison Contenza made its way to the far end of a line of maroon- and white-bedecked Pirates and Falcons. The descent of the ball founded Hamker, who nodded the orb into the goal to double the Rocky River lead.
The 2-0 lead seemed destined to be the score preserved by the halftime break, but it was a Pirate downfield break in the final moments of the half that pushed the River lead to 3-0. That third goal was scored when Addie Harris connected with Maya Patti, who beat a defender with a move before whipping an 18-yarder over the outstretched arms of Phillips but below the crossbar and into the net. That shot found twine with just eight seconds remaining in the half.
Over the opening 40 minutes, the Pirates put 7-of-20 shots on goal and had six corners. The Falcons logged one shot and no corners.
Both sides substituted liberally over the second stanza, a period that saw about half as many scoring chances. One of those scoring chances was converted in the 68th minute when Addie Harris took a feed from Sam Miller and planted her fourth of the season.
River outshot the Falcons, 11-1, over the second half.
Standout performances in turning the midfield stripe into a brick wall were turned in by Chloe Reust, Allison Contenza, Chloe Eberlein, Alexandra Gluntz and Kailey Budzar.
With Wednesday’s victory, the Pirates advance in the Division II Elyria Section/District brackets. In the next round, Rocky River will play the winner of Thursday’s No. 1 Buckeye-No. 8 Padua match. That next-round game will be on Monday at the site of the top remaining seed.
CANNON FIRE …
FOURS WITH WHICH TO BE RECKONED: Half of Lizzie Hamker’s 2018 goal production has come at the expense of the Firelands Falcons. Hamker tallied two in a 3-0 River win at Firelands on Sept. 24. The Pirate junior registered her first goal of the season on Sept. 12; she has logged three multi-goal games this season.
HOP-TOBER-FEST: Head Coach Pat Hopkins is now 27-11 (.711) over 38 playoff games over his tenure at Rocky River. … The Pirates haven’t dropped a postseason game at home since 2015. The Maroon & White are 4-0 in playoff games at Rocky River Stadium since.
# # # river # # #