The Rocky River girls varsity soccer team earned the statement victory it has been looking for.
The state-ranked Pirates did so Saturday afternoon with a 4-1 victory over Perrysburg High School, the 2012 Division I state champions, at Rocky River Stadium..
"Perrysburg is a great team," Rocky River head coach Patrick Hopkins said. "I told the girls prior to this game that they went 23-0 last year. They may have lost three great players (to graduation), but there are still eight girls on their squad who have won a state championship last year.
"We knew we had to go out there and really make a statement." he said.
The Pirates were led by senior forward Abby Elinsky, who netted a hat trick in the first half of play. All three of her goals were assisted by senior forward Grace Bennett.
"It's amazing how Abby and Grace work so well together." Hopkins said.
"Grace and I just connect very well." Elinsky added. "We practice together every day, we go through the drills, and we just know where each other are supposed to be.
"That's our job, to work together," she said.
"Our coach has been telling us to play close together," Bennett explained. "So that way, we can have more combination-play. I just think we work really well together and I love playing with her up top," she added.
Senior midfielder Megan Killeen added a second-half goal for the Pirates. Killeen's goal was assisted by senior defender McKenna Klodnick, who has been used by Hopkins as the team's throw-in specialist.
"McKenna saves us a great deal," he said. "We always have the ability to get out of pressure.
"We'll use our other girls for throws. We have two or three girls who can really throw the ball, but we use McKenna to get out of pressure. Sometimes when she's able to grab that ball and put into play quickly at a great distance, it really alleviates that pressure on our defense.
"It also powers us to move forward and score a goal," he added.
The victory brings the Pirates' overall record to 10-0-1, but Hopkins still can see some room for improvement for his team.
"Every game, we are trying to piece some things together, to challenge in a different way," he said. "So far in the 11 games that we've played, it's been coming together really well.
"We are still making some mistakes. Great teams, like Perrysburg, will be able to capitalize on those mistakes," he said.
With 3:39 remaining in the game, Perrysburg senior forward Sarah Quimby was able to sky a shot just out of reach of Rocky River goalkeeper Sara Connelly for the lone Yellow Jackets goal.
"We have to realize that we need to finish the game," Hopkins added. "We needed to finish that game for our keeper, because she has done a great job all year."
Quimby's goal was only the fourth goal given up by the Pirates all season.
"You could have the best goalkeeper, but from where that ball was coming from, I knew Sara was in trouble," Hopkins said. "The good thing is that it happened.
"One, there should have been immediate pressure on the girl who put that ball up. Second, if that happens again, she'll make that save."
Connelly recorded seven saves in the game, while Perrysburg goalkeeper Sarah Baer had five.
According to Hopkins, the Pirates need to play all 80 minutes of the game with great intensity.
"They slowed down after going up 4-0," he said. "We talk a lot about our speed of play, and I tell them all the time, 'it's not how fast you run, it's how quickly you play in this game.'
"When you slow down, and you have a team like Perrysburg, they're going to take advantage of it. That was apparent in the closing minutes of the game. In the second half, we controlled the ball for the majority of the time, until there was about 10 minutes remaining."
As of Sept. 16, the Pirates were ranked No. 2 in the Division II state coaches poll. But Hopkins wants his team to just think of winning the last game of the year.
"It's great for the girls to get the recognition in the polls. They deserve it," he said. "But I don't care who's ahead of us or behind us, because at the end of the year, that's where you'll know where you rank in
The Pirates will host Elyria Catholic in a West Shore Conference matchup on Wednesday, with game time slated for 7 p.m.
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