MACEDONIA — Expectations define a lot of what happens in girls high school soccer.
The expectation level doesn’t come any higher than it does at Walsh Jesuit. Winning five straight state titles will do that.
Thus, after bowing out in the playoffs without a district title for the first time in decades last year, motivation should not be lacking in the Warriors camp this fall.
By contrast, last fall’s 10-win season qualifies as a big year for Nordonia girls soccer. The fact the Knights welcomed Walsh in both teams’ season opener Saturday speaks to the Knights’ growing ambition.
Walsh wasn’t in mid-season form and the Warriors showed their inexperience in attack, but Walsh rode a pair of early goals to a 2-0 win over the Knights Saturday at Boliantz Stadium.
Warriors coach Dino McIntyre had no complaints with his team’s effort, even if its execution lacked at times.
"It was really the final pass that hurt us tonight," McIntyre said. "We just have to learn how to adapt when switching from grass to turf. That’s something the players have to do.
"We have a lot of young players out there," he added. "There was a lot of nerves, which you can expect. We were unlucky a few times. We hit the post three times. If we put away a few more of those chances in the first half, the game is over."
Walsh finished with a 9-2 edge in shots on goal and an 8-3 edge in corner kicks, while maintaining the possession advantage for most of the game.
That said, Nordonia coach Les Gicei was anything but unhappy with his team after the game.
"Obviously, I would like to see us clean up our technical stuff, but into terms of effort, we played very well tonight," Gicei said. "We played hard and they are a very good team. That’s all you can ask."
Nordonia’s resilience was impressive, given that a fortunate bounce gave Walsh the lead early.
In the second minute, a high cross from the right side bounced over the head of a Knigh defender and right to Walsh senior forward Aubrey Rea. Rea ran into the box and fired a low shot past Nordonia goalkeeper
"It happens," Gicei said of the bad bounce.
Nordonia was not afraid to challenge for 50/50 balls all of the the field, though Gicei made it clear he wanted his team to avoid fouls around the penalty box.
In the 22nd minute, Nordonia paid for not following their coach’s advice. After the Knights were called for a foul just outside the box on the right side, Walsh captain Morgan Pentz stepped up.
Gicei called Pentz’ shot "awesome" as she put a rocket in just under the crossbar, giving Wetzel no chance and making it 2-0.
"She’s someone that works at her craft," McIntyre said of Pentz. "She spends time after practice on set pieces. It’s not that she just hits the ball, she trains at it."
After the second goal, however, Wetzel — and the woodwork — kept the Warriors at bay. Wetzel finished with five saves and made numerous catches to take away crosses and through balls.
Up 2-0 at halftime, Walsh’s possession advantage grew in the second half. The Warriors had numerous chances to get the third goal, but could not find a way through.
Although Walsh didn’t look dangerous on its eight corner kicks, McIntyre said he wasn’t concerned about putting away the chances.
"We haven’t had a chance to work on [corner kicks] yet," McIntyre said. "We needed to concentrate on defense. We gave up some goals in preseason. To give up one or two chances in a game is good."
Nordonia’s best chance to score came in the 78th minute when forward Athena Kolettis got loose behind Walsh’s defense. Kolettis ran in on net, but put her shot just wide.
Gicei noted Walsh was one of the few teams with the team speed to keep up with Kolettis and the Warriors likely would be the toughest team his squad played all year.
"This game was a learning experience for us," Gicei said. "We look forward top getting back on the field."
Nordonia will return to action Tuesday at home vs. Streetsboro at 7 p.m. before traveling to North Canton Hoover Saturday at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Warriors will their home opener Wednesday vs. Solon at 7 p.m. before traveling to Dublin Coffman Saturday at 7 p.m.