Story by John Blake
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Coming off an impressive district championship season, the Rocky River girls soccer team is picking up right where it left off this season.
The Pirates wiped out visiting Brecksville-Broadview Heights, 6-0, Wednesday night for their second win of the 2013 campaign. Rocky River, now 2-0, scored four times in the last 17 minutes of the first half and two goals apiece from seniors Abby Elinsky, Grace Bennett and McKenna Klodnick.
Head coach Pat Hopkins was more than thrilled with what has turned into an early season juggernaut. The Pirates have recorded 14 goals in the first two contests.
"If you told me in the beginning of the year we'd beat Beaumont, 8-1, and Brecksville, 6-0, I would have told you I don't believe that is going to happen. But this is a team that could do that," said Hopkins, whose club won the 2012 Division II Rocky River district championship.
"They enjoy going to goal and they have fun doing it," he said.
Brecksville hasn't quite found the winning formula just yet under first-year head coach Justin Thacker. The Lady Bees opened the season with a 2-0 loss to Holy Name Aug. 19.
"We still want to compete,” said Thacker, who has just one senior on the roster. “I don't think anybody on our side is happy with this result. We still want to play a possession style where we compete and put ourselves in a position to win more games than we lose.
"Unfortunately when you give up a goal, you still have to be able to rebound and things like that. Expectation-wise, I still think that we should finish in the top of the table in our conference," he said.
Thacker's girls hung tough against the host Pirates for over 20 minutes before the flood gates opened.
Klodnick tapped in a corner kick for Rocky River's first goal of the game at the 16:53 mark. Just over four minutes later, the Pirates got two goals in a period of just 37 seconds and quickly built a 3-0 cushion.
With 12:27 remaining in the half, Elinsky recorded her first goal of the night thanks to one of two assists from junior Eva Schneider. Before many of the Rocky River faithful could finish cheering and take a breath, Bennett converted a breakaway opportunity at the 11:50 mark.
Elinsky notched her second goal later in the half when she executed a stellar shot with the left foot that barely snuck in the upper left side of the net.
"Grace and Abby, they're tough to stop," said Hopkins. "They are two big time scorers and they love going to goal."
The Rocky River coach didn't discount the rest of the his team, however.
"We have a lot of weapons on this team," he said. "Jillian Krebs didn't have her best game tonight but she's a major contributor. Emily Soltes in the back was very strong, very patient, very calm.
“Schneider, she had a solid game in the middle. That's the adjustment we made. They were having success beating us in the middle and then I moved Eva to the central and it kind of changed the dynamic of what was going on in the field," he added.
Accounting for the Pirates' sixth and final goal was Bennett, who successfully backed down a Brecksville defender deep in the zone, spun, and booted it past sophomore goalie Jessica Farwell.
Both Hopkins and Thacker remarked on the speed of the Pirates - helpful for Rocky River and a disadvantage for the Lady Bees.
"For the first 20 minutes of that game, I was a little bit worried," Hopkins said. "But we had so much speed and so much strength. Many of our girls play all year round. Their focus is on soccer to the point where they do a lot of things outside in the offseason to strengthen themselves."
There were early signs that Brecksville would give the Pirates a run for their money. Playing even for much of the first 20 minutes, the Lady Bees possessed the ball well and received some stout defense from Farwell and the back unit. Then the Pirates started the rally.
"Up until that point we kept possession, we kept the ball on the ground and we got into the attack," Hacker said. "After that, we didn't win another 50-50 ball for the rest of the half, which makes a pretty big difference."
As happy as he was with the outcome, Hopkins said he also liked seeing some of his younger players get some invaluable playing time down the stretch in the second half.
"It was nice to see some of our juniors, even our sophomore Emily in the back, coaching some of the other girls who are on the JV," Hopkins said. "Situations like this can only strengthen our JV program because they're getting experience against a high level team."
Rocky River senior goalie Sara Connelly recorded six saves.
The Pirates host Toledo St. Ursula Academy and the Lady Bees host Mentor in a pair of games at 5 p.m. Saturday.
(You can follow John Blake on Twitter @johnblake02)