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Elyria Catholic Panthers advance to first regional final
These were just a few of the obstacles standing in the way of the Elyria Catholic girls soccer team pursuing its first-ever trip to the regional finals — not to mention a Waterloo team that won its district as a No. 4 seed.
None of this seemed to bother the Panthers, though, as they used a three-goal second half to put away the Vikings, 4-1, Wednesday evening at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School in the Division III, Region 9 semifinals.
Two goals from Sara Pallendino, as well as goals from Jenna Smith and Danielle Dziak helped Elyria Catholic (14-2-4) avenge last season’s regional semifinals loss to Laurel in what was the team’s first regional appearance in school history.
“We’re just ecstatic,” Panthers coach Tony Rozanc said. “The game started a little crazy for us. I thought we were playing a dominating first half, but we couldn’t finish. I knew that if we kept chipping away it we’d get a goal.”
That goal finally came in the 36th minute when Pallendino put away a cross from about 25 yards out that beat Waterloo goalkeeper Brianna Ellsworth, giving Elyria Catholic a 1-0 lead.
“It was really exciting,” Pallendino said. “I knew we had to get a goal off because we were pressuring but we just couldn’t find the net, and I was happy to get the team its feet.”
The goal was short-lived, however, as Miranda Bennett tied the match just a minute later when goalkeeper Katie Gauntner tried to go after the ball but it took a high bounce off the turf and into the net.
“That was an unfortunate goal against us,” Rozanc said. “We got a little frustrated, we dealt with it, the girls came out in the second half and once we got the ball rolling we were fine.”
The Panthers took the lead in the 59th minute on a goal from Smith. The goal was the result of a Vikings’ goal kick that was intercepted by Jenna Ellingson, who fed Smith the ball and the freshman did the rest, beating Ellsworth on a one-on-one.
Smith, as she has all season, was playing with a heavy heart, losing her father Joel to cancer a couple months ago.
“He’s taught me everything I know,” Smith said. “Right when I scored I knew right away ... I was like, ‘Dad’. I haven’t really scored all season and it just means a lot that I got to score in the regional semis.”
The goal put the Panthers up for good as their defense fought off every push Waterloo threw at them.
Elyria Catholic’s offense fed off its defense, getting a goal from Dziak during a scrum near the net. The two-goal lead certainly took some of the pressure off.
“It’s funny because she slid down to get that goal and we actually talked about doing that,” Rozanc said. “I said, ‘You have to go all out, it’s the playoffs and you may never get this chance again.’ She did it and she finished the goal. It was definitely the nail in the coffin.”
Pallendino added her second goal just as the final seconds ticked off the clock, a fitting end to what continues to be another magical season for the Panthers.
“It’s so amazing,” Pallendino said. “Last year we made it this far but unfortunately we didn’t win. This year we really felt like we deserved it. We’ve worked really hard to get to this point and we did it. It’s great.”
Elyria Catholic will play in Saturday's regional finals against the winner of Hawken and Rootstown, who played in the other semifinal. The match is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Twinsburg High School.
Last Updated: 10/31/2012 11:14:26 PM EST