CHAGRIN FALLS TWP. — They lost 12 seniors from a very talented squad last season.
They also have a new coach.
And to top it all off, they didn’t have a winning record heading into the postseason.
Still don’t, as a matter of fact.
So, what did all of these not particularly promising facts mean to the Greenmen?
The Aurora girls soccer team advanced to a district title match for the second consecutive year.
The fourth-seeded Greenmen earned a tense 2-1 victory over top-seeded Kenston Monday at Bombers Stadium in Chagrin Falls Township.
As a result, Aurora (8-8-2), which is 2-0 in postseason play, earned a date in the Chagrin Falls Division II district final.
The Greenmen, who are led by first-year head coach Domenica McClintock, are scheduled to play second-seeded Chagrin Falls in the district final Thursday at Streetsboro’s Rockets Stadium. Play is set to begin at 7 p.m.
"I think our girls were ready to take it," McClintock said. "I don’t know if the numbers [seeds] really meant that much to them. Kenston is a good team. They’re fast; they definitely have some weapons. But for them, they just played a complete game from start to finish."
By the way, Aurora has a little bit of history with the Tigers. Last year, the Greenmen reached their first district title match since 2012 after earning a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Chagrin Falls in a district semifinal contest.
Aurora is certainly eager to renew acquaintances with its former Chagrin Valley Conference rival. But the Greenmen had to deal with another former CVC rival first.
It didn’t take long for upset-minded Aurora to throw the first punch.
A little more than three minutes into the game, the Greenmen stunned the Bombers (14-3-1) moments after a throw-in.
The ball eventually landed near the feet of sophomore Samantha Stern, who booted the ball over the head of Kenston junior goalkeeper Julia Piazza.
Aurora struck again a little more than eight minutes later. This time, the Greenmen took advantage of a free kick.
Junior Emma Krondorfer took the set piece and sent a high chip over a bevy of Kenston defenders inside the Bombers’ penalty box. Senior Allyson Devins happened to be at the right place at the right time as she used her head to poke the ball into the net.
But Kenston didn’t go down with a fight.
In fact, the Bombers got on the board a little more than two minutes later.
Skylar Cornell briefly got free deep in Aurora territory. Although the Greenmen defense recovered quickly and knocked the ball away from Cornell’s feet, the loose ball landed in Kenston forward Elyse Myles’ vicinity.
Since Aurora junior goalie Morgan Demagall charged toward Cornell as she got free, Myles easily booted the ball into an empty net.
The Bombers didn’t get that close again.
"We kept talking all week about preparing for this game," McClintock said. "We have to play a complete game. It has to be start to finish. Hold the rope in the back, shift in transition together. Make sure we’re communicating. They did everything we asked them to do."
Both teams generated very few breakaway opportunities in the second half. Kenston’s biggest threats to score came off long free kicks from Aidan Myles. Although her booming, twisting shots were tricky to play, Demagall made every save. The standout Greenmen goalie finished with seven saves. Kenston goalie stopped nine shots as Aurora outshot the Bombers 20-9.
"We really tried to take their North-South game away and force them to go side by side," McClintock said. "Not allow that long kick down the side to get that cross. I think, being able to keep it close, we also dropped an extra player in the midfield just to have a little bit more of our defensive composure."
Both teams took four corner kicks. The Greenmen have come a long way since a rough start back in August.
These days, though, everything seems to be clicking for the Aurora girls.
"We were a little unsure of ourselves in the beginning," McClintock said. "We were trying to figure things out. Over time, we just kept polishing it, polishing it. We played a lot of tough competition. I think that top competition, the speed of play really forced us to keep stepping up."
They did, indeed. And now the Greenmen are one way away from reaching the Elite Eight.
"You couldn’t have asked for a better performance out of them," McClintock said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.