Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
In the midst of a scoreless game at Westlake’s Read Field, Bay defender Sam Meisenburg lined up a free kick from just inside 40 yards out. With both the Rockets and Demons taking their positions, the Bay junior made her approach.
Meisenburg, who already had two goals on the season, had just one thing in mind as the ball left her foot:
Meisenburg’s kick soared through the air, over the Demon defense and past a fully extended Alexis Carpenter for the first - and only - goal of the game to give state-ranked Bay a hard-fought 1-0 win over Westlake in the annual battle between the neighborhood rivals.
“It was amazing,” Meisenburg said. “When I first kicked it and saw it go, I didn’t think it went in. But when everybody started cheering, I was like ‘oh my God, it went in.’
“My intention was to score. I was going for it. I don’t think she was expecting it to be that high up,” Meisneburg said of the ball evading Carpenter, Westlake’s junior keeper. “Most of my kicks curve to the corner, and I saw her go in that direction, so I kicked it more straight.”
Meisenburg was also happy to break her team’s recent losing streak against the Demons. Nobody was exactly sure, but head coach Jack Griffiths thought the last Rocket win may have come back in 2008.
“I’ve been coaching here five years, and I think we tied them my first year,” said Griffiths, whose team improved to 12-1-1. “They’ve beaten us, I think, the last four times 1-0, 1-0, 1-0...we just haven’t been able to score against them.
“This is our first time beating them in years. I’m just so glad that I was able to score the goal so that Bay could finally beat Westlake,” Meisenburg added with a smile.
Bay, the No. 2 team in the Division II state coaches poll, came out the aggressor in the first half and kept play in Westlake’s third for the better part of the first 20-plus minutes. That kept the Demon defense and Carpenter busy, with Carpenter stopping a solid Nicole Pohlkamp cross and a shot by Bay’s Alex Brown in the 16th minute alone.
In the 28th minute, Carpenter answered the call again as she came out high in the box to grab the ball and prevent a potential one-on-one encounter. That’s when Westlake started making some advances and sending the ball into Rocket territory.
Late in the 30th minute, the Rockets had a scare when junior Lauren Hurst hit a crossing pass into the crease area. Bay keeper Margaret Francati just did beat Westlake sophomore Amanda Finucan to the ball, but some contact sent her to the turf.
No foul was called, and Francati eventually got up to her feet and shook it off. She had a save three minutes later when Finucan took a pass from sophomore Rita Forbusch on the right side and shot from about 15 yards out.
Carpenter was still busy as well, stopping a long free kick from Pohlkamp, then knocking away another shot off a corner kick in the 38th minute. The game remained scoreless at halftime and throughout the first four-plus minutes of the second half.
In the 45th minute, a Demon foul was called and Meisenburg delivered what proved to be the game winner with 35:03 left on the clock. The two teams continued to go at each other, with Westlake unable to crack Bay’s defense for a tying goal.
For the game, Francati registered five saves, while Carpenter turned away nine.
“She drilled that shot,” said Westlake coach Scott Jones of Meisenburg’s kick. “We’ve got one of the best goalies around, and there was absolutely nothing Alexis could do about that. There was nothing anybody could do about it.
“But there’s a reason why Bay is ranked second in the state right now. They’re a good team and they find ways to win games. I thought we played well. I thought we competed against them. I thought maybe 0-0 would have been a more fitting end to it, but it is what it is. Our kids played hard,” he added.
Jomes, whose team was coming off a tough 2-0 loss at Brecksville last week, felt his team has made progress throughout the season. He also said the schedule doesn’t get any easier for his youthful Demon squad.
“They’ve got Alex Brown, and I thought we did a great job against her,” said Jones, whose team is now 6-4-1 overall. “Our kids are improving, but we can’t roller coast it. We’ve played Bay, Brecksville and North Olmsted, who has a really good team, before them. Our schedule doesn’t give us too many breaks.
“We’ve still got Warren Howland, who is state-ranked. Avon Lake always has a realluy good team, as does Avon, who we play on Monday. We play Midpark Wednesday, and they beat Brecksville this year, so they have to be reckoned with.
“We don’t get much of a break, but I don’t think we’d want it any other way. We’re young, and we’re getting better,” he added.
“I know they’re young, but I thought Westlake played well,” Griffiths said. “I thought both teams played well. It doesn’t really matter what kind of records we have. When Bay and Westlake play, it’s always a tough one.”
Griffiths felt his team’s newfound toughness was one of the keys in the victory.
“I’m starting to see more toughness,” he said. “We’re quick and we’ve got the foot skills, but when we go up against some of the tougher teams I don’t want us to get overpowered. We’re not a big team.
“This year on the big field, we were able to spread them out and take advantage of our speed. It helps. I was really happy with our play in the first half. I thought we outplayed them, for the most part. In the second half, they came after us and it was pretty even,” he added.