It was a fitting end to the regular season for the Rocky River girls varsity soccer team, as the Pirates defeated Magnificat 3-0 at St. Ignatius High School on Saturday.
The victory secured the Pirates' undefeated regular season record at 15-0-1, and gave head coach Patrick Hopkins the 100th victory of his career, on the field of his alma mater.
"It's nice to have that undefeated season," Hopkins said. "The girls will be celebrating tonight, and truly, it's all about them, and everything that they've done and put forward over the senior class's four years here.
"It's nice to get the recognition, but what they've done and the sacrifices that they've made over the last four years, to put themselves in the position that we're at right now, I'm just truly proud of them for that."
In the 27th minute of the first half, Rocky River junior Sydney Hamker scored what proved to be the goal of record.
"That goal was big," Hopkins said. "Mags is a very strong team, and a very good team. They've played in big games this year, and it's nice to get a win over such an accomplished program.
"We did not come out here with the energy that I would have liked to today. That being said, the way we still found ways to finish the opportunities speaks mountains for this team and their ability to - even when things aren't going their way - overcome adversity.
"That's why we made the schedule as tough as we could, to face these challenges throughout the year. Different people have stepped up, and it's been great," he said.
The Pirates second goal came with 4:28 left in the first half from senior forward Abby Elinsky, as she dribbled down the right side of the Magnificat goal and went short-post on Blue Streaks goalkeeper Kaleigh Piscioneri.
"What is expected is to try for the far post, so I just saw an opening and slid it in," Elinsky said. "It was easy, and it worked. I just got it off my foot and I saw it go in."
Just two minutes later, Rocky River senior Grace Bennett put the capper on the game, scoring the third and final goal of the half, and the regular season.
"McKenna (Klodnick) kicked it and someone headed it, and I cut across and just tapped it in just past the goalie," Bennett said. "I just wanted to get a finish on it and get the game 3-0 before the half."
Rocky River did not have an easy time competing against Magnificat, as the Blue Streaks had Bennett and Elinsky running the entire 80 minutes.
"We wanted to be undefeated going into the postseason, but we also wanted to get coach's 100th win against this team," Bennett continued. "This was one of the more competitive teams we played, so it's a bigger game."
"This game was good competition to set us up for the postseason," Elinsky added. "It was a good game and it was well played."
Rocky River out-shot Magnificat 11-4 in the first half, but the Blue Streaks came fighting back in the second half, putting nine shots on goal to the Pirates' four.
The 13 total shots on goal for Magnificat was possibly the most action Rocky River goalkeeper Sara Connelly has seen this season. She secured her 10th shutout on the year, tallying five saves to Piscioneri's six.
"This is awesome," Connelly said. "This was the game in which we were trying to prepare ourselves for the playoffs, and to play 3-0 and control the entire game gives us so much confidence.
"This season has not been that challenging for me. My team has done everything for me, really. I've had a few saves here and there, but I was really excited for this game, because I knew I would really get some action.
"It was even better that it was my 10th shutout, as well as Hopkins' 100th win," she said.
"Ten shutouts, with our schedule, is great for Sara," Hopkins said. "It shows how dedicated she is to this program."
Hopkins also thinks his team had a lot of help from the stands this year.
"Just look out here to our fans: Rocky River is a great community and I love to be a part of it," he said. "For these girls to do this for the community, and come together, it just brings everybody together."
On the other side, the loss was Magnificat's fourth on the season as it finished the reeler season at 11-4-1. But Blue Streaks head coach Gretchen Micklitsch thinks this can only make her team stronger for the postseason.
"I think a game like this helps us prepare mentally for the postseason," she said. "If we are going to go far into the postseason, there will be games where we will have to come from behind. We needed to have that experience to try to fight and scratch back.
"We're still trying to figure out our lineup a little bit. When you play a team that has two players like Elinsky and Bennett, and the girls with the long throw-ins, you kind of have to change your lineup a little bit. You have to try to figure out how to defend against them," she added.
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