STREETSBORO — Veteran head coach Ryan Willard has seen his team grow dramatically in recent years.
Considering this progression basically came from scratch, that’s certainly not a bad thing.
On Thursday, the Streetsboro girls soccer team added another impressive accomplishment that didn’t seem possible about a decade ago.
The Rockets toppled a Suburban League powerhouse.
Host Streetsboro improved to 2-1-1 on the season after earning a thrilling 3-2 victory over Aurora at Quinn Field.
The Greenmen, who saw their 2018 season end on Quinn Field after a heartbreaking loss to Revere in a Division II district title contest, shared the Suburban League American Conference title last year.
"They have a couple of really nice players who pose a lot of speed on the attack," Aurora first-year head coach Domenica McClintock said of the Rockets. "Those through balls get you every single time. What’s disappointing is that we possessed and dominated for the bulk of the game."
Emma Flick made the difference for Streetsboro.
The gifted sophomore scored twice, including the game-winner with a little more than 11 minutes left.
Flick had her shining moment after a corner kick.
After the ball was kicked, it bounced around after a few shots were deflected. The ball finally landed nearly Flick’s right foot and she poked it into the corner of the net.
"It just kind of bounced around in there," Willard said. "Emma was able to get a clean foot on it. That was big for us because we’ve struggled on corner kicks offensively and defensively, so it was nice to get one to go our way."
The Greenmen had plenty of chances to tie the game down the stretch. In fact, Aurora (3-4) had possession much of the second half and prevented the wide-open through balls that the Rockets executed regularly in the first 40 minutes.
"We talked a lot at halftime about shifting and transitioning and making sure we’re doing it as a group," McClintock said. "When you’re doing it as a group and you’re tight and compact, it just meshes a little bit better and you can adjust."
The Greenmen had a couple of point-blank chances go over or to the side of the goal. It also had a bullet from Carlie Filkouski land into the hands of Rockets’ goalkeeper Heidi Timmons from inside her own penalty box.
"When they present themselves, you have to finish because they don’t come all the time," McClintock said. "A couple of missed opportunities that we capitalize on and it’s a whole different game."
Aurora benefited from a corner kick too. The Greenmen’s set piece also bounced around before it landed in an ideal spot for a white and green jersey.
After a shot was deflected, Emma Krondorfer gave Aurora a 1-0 lead when she volleyed a shot off a bounce into the net.
The Rockets responded, though. As a matter of fact, Streetsboro eventually took a 2-1 lead with a pair of beauties in the final 12-plus minutes.
McKenzie Mobley played a ball out wide to Ella Deevers, who dribbled down the right side and cut toward the middle to take on Greenmen goalie Morgan Demagall.
As Demagall charged her, Deevers tapped the ball toward the middle of the field where Flick was running at full speed. Flick then one-touched Deevers’ past into the net to tie the game at one.
The Rockets struck again less than seven minutes later.
Again, the play started when Mobley fed the ball to Kaylee Christine, this time on the left side. Christine’s cross to the middle was deflected and came back toward her right foot. Christine decided to go for it and wound up smashing a low liner into the net for a 2-1 Streetsboro advantage.
Aurora, which had a number of opportunities to score throughout the game, knotted things at two apiece a little more than 13 minutes into the second half.
Samantha Stern played a perfect through ball to Filkouski in the middle of the field. With just Timmons in front of her, Filkouski, who had very little room to operate throughout the evening, converted easily to tie the game.
"The minute she had the ball, they had two and then brought in a third player around," McClintock said. "That makes it tough with three people marking you. We, as a group, have to adjust. When teams are going to do that, we have to exploit the space they’re giving us for the other attackers."
The Greenmen had a pair of corner kicks in the final two minutes, but the Rockets’ defense cleared the ball out of harm’s way both times.
Timmons finished with 10 saves for the Rockets. Demagall stopped five shots.
"This is probably our biggest win," Willard said. "We tied them last year, but to get a win this year, it’s a big plus."
Aurora probably won’t duplicate its glittering record from a year ago. But that doesn’t bother McClintock one bit.
Every game is a learning experience, especially when the lessons are assimilated against challenging opponents.
"The nice thing about this type of a tough schedule is that it’s just preparing us more and more for tournament play," McClintock said. "I don’t want them hanging their heads on this. It’s one more opportunity to fine-tune and polish the details."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.