By Frank Foreman
With a pair of Region 3 teams in search of their first win, it was the Conneaut Eagles that took advantage of their opportunities Thursday afternoon, dominating their way to a 2-0 win over Maplewood at the Maplewood Elementary School field.
It was evident early that the Eagles were the better of the two teams, as they controlled play and allowed Maplewood to cross midfield just four times in the first half.
Though Conneaut was only able to net two goals in the win, the chances were there, as the final score makes the contest appear closer than it actually was.
For Conneaut head coach Brian Kebort, he’s just happy to finally get a win.
“It’s nice to get that first win,” Kebort said. “I hope this win relaxes us a bit, and there will be less talking about how we still need to win a game. Hopefully we can build on it.”
Conneaut (1-6-1, 1-3 Region 3) has been close to getting into the win column this season on multiple occasions, losing to Meadville in overtime, falling to Eisenhower 2-1 and dropping a 1-0 contest with Iroquois earlier in the year.
But Thursday was different. On Thursday, things began to click.
“We have a tendency to run wherever, and then the girls don’t know where to pass the ball,” Kebort said. “When we get everyone where they are supposed to be like today, it looks nice. We worked the ball well, and the big thing for us is just getting everything to work correctly.”
Everything was working just fine in the early stages of the game, as Conneaut created chance after chance deep into Maplewood’s zone.
A beautiful save from Maplewood keeper Samantha Hall seven minutes in kept the game scoreless, but that wouldn’t hold up as Conneaut’s Jillian White got loose three minutes later on a breakaway, scoring as she collided with Hall coming out to challenge the shot, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
The collision occurred right after White kicked the ball, and Hall was taken out of the game with a head injury.
Now, the Eagles were in unfamiliar territory: Playing with a lead.
“That was nice to get the first one. You always like to play with the lead, especially when you know it will be a close game,” Kebort said. “With a lead, if somebody on the other team makes a nice play or we make a mistake, at the very least we are still tied.”
Conneaut continued to own the possession battle, and went into halftime with a one goal lead after outshooting Maplewood 11-0 in the first half.
The second half was more of the same, as Conneaut continued to keep possession deep in the Tigers’ territory. Maplewood was able to finally force the ball downfield, working for two corners in the second half, but totaled just one shot the entire game.
“Defensively we’ve been good,” Kebort said. “We’re playing aggressive. Early in the season we were laying back, but now we’re cutting off the ball more.”
The Eagles put the game out of reach 10 minutes into the second half, when Conneaut worked the ball in front of the Tigers’ net and the Eagles’ Becca Owens knocked it home to make it 2-0.
The insurance goal for Conneaut was exactly what Kebort was looking for, as his team knew at that point win No. 1 wasn’t far away.
“One goal is nice, but two is really nice,” Kebort said.
As a team, Conneaut outshot Maplewood 17-1 in the game. Maplewood’s Savannah Mona moved to keeper following the injury to Hall, and saved nine shots in the loss.
Conneaut finally got over the hump, but now the focus will be on what the Eagles can do with the momentum of the squad’s first win of the year.
Perhaps a winning streak?
“We have teams coming up on our schedule that we can play well against,” Kebort said. “There could be a lot of close games, so it’s something to look forward to. Hopefully, we got a little more confidence today.”