The Cleveland girls soccer team has been the proverbial thorn in the side for a Corinth Holders program that has its sights set on acquiring what the Rams have accomplished each of the past two seasons: a conference championship.
Thanks to a pair of quick strikes on Thursday, Corinth Holders managed to pluck out that thorn with a 2-1 victory that completed a season sweep of their rivals and put the Pirates in the driver’s seat for a league title of its own.
Lexi Chase put the Pirates out in front a mere 40 seconds into the contest and Allie O’Hara gave Corinth Holders the lead for good 41 seconds into the second half as the team moved to 12-0 on the season and 7-0 in conference play.
Senior Bella Iorio credited her team’s focus and intensity as being key to the quick start. The Pirates arrived at the field 30 minutes earlier than usual before their kickoff against the two-time defending Two Rivers 3A Conference champion Rams.
“We walked into this game knowing it was going to be hard work,” Iorio said. “I feel like we played very well and that we all showed up ready to play.”
Summer Mitchell played a key role in both goals and got Corinth Holders rolling when the sophomore beat her defender on the right sideline before crossing the ball to Chase, who one-timed her shot inside the left goalpost.
Cleveland, playing its third game in three days, responded quickly when Amaya Wall carved out some space at the top of the Pirates’ 18-yard box with a spin move before launching a shot that dropped just below the crossbar to tie the game three minutes later.
Rams’ goalkeeper Katelyn Lowery made a handful of key saves during the remainder of the first half to keep the game knotted 1-1 headed into the second half.
That’s when Mitchell, in similar fashion to the Pirates’ opening goal, quickly moved the ball down the right end before pulling off another accurate cross. Carolina Solis was able to knock the ball down to an open O’Hara, who calmly finished from six yards out for the 2-1 lead.
Cleveland (4-8, 4-3) moved up central defender Briele Cochran in the game’s final minutes to supplement the attack and the junior stalwart came close to leveling the score with just over two minutes to play.
Cochran worked herself into scoring position, gaining possession of the ball on the left side of the penalty box and blasting a shot toward goal. Corinth Holders’ keeper Rachel Witkin deflected the ball off the crossbar and out-of-bounds to preserve the victory.
“We gave them a run for their money, in the first half especially,” Cleveland coach Marissa DiMarco said. “Our defense has been consistent, we’re not just getting any goals and you can’t win games when you can’t score.”
The Rams’ back line of Cochran, Sarah Ginn, Estefanie Pedrozo and Brittany Preston held strong for the bulk of the game against a Pirates side that has outscored Two Rivers opponents by a combined 37-4 in seven games.
In a season that has seen few tests thrown the way of the Pirates, Corinth Holders coach Alison Vetterl liked what she saw during the physical game.
“The bottom line is that we’re tough,” Vetterl said. “We need to continue to play tough, we can’t back down and we need to just keep playing to the potential that we’re capable of playing because, when we do, we’re strong.”