BROADVIEW HEIGHTS — Two years ago, when Twinsburg faced Walsh Jesuit in a girls soccer district final, it was a mismatch in terms of expectations.
At the time, Walsh was the five-time defending state champion, while Twinsburg was playing in its first district final in school history. The Tigers celebrated after the game, despite losing 4-0.
Much has changed in the two years since that game, as it was the Tigers who made the run to the state final four last season, while Walsh was denied its first district title since the 1990s.
When the two teams met again Thursday at Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a Division i district final, the contest felt like a heavyweight title bout.
In the end, however, the longtime champion was the one who landed the knockout blow.
Three late goals turned a tight game into a decisive win for the Warriors as Walsh won 3-0. The Warriors improved to 16-0-3 and will play Tuesday in a Division I regional semifinal against Mayfield.
Twinsburg finished the season at 14-3-1.
Walsh coach Dino McIntyre said he knew his team had to play great defense against the uptempo Tigers’ attack.
“We had to make sure we were pressuring them to deny the ball to [Twinsburg’s Jaydn] Harris and Alli [King],” McIntyre said. “Our backline played phenomenal tonight.
“In every game I saw [Twinsburg] play this year, they scored in the first 20 minutes. I said they weren’t scoring in the first 20 minutes.”
Twinsburg coach John Garber said his team had its chances, particularly early in the second half.
“Our halftime adjustment was to get the ball wide, because they play a sweeper-stopper, so nothing was there in the middle,” Garber said. “I though we dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half.
“They’re the No. 5 team in state for a reason. Their defense was excellent.”
In the first half, Walsh’s pressure suffocated the Tigers, as Twinsburg was starved of possession, even in their own end.
However, Walsh could not turn its early possession edge into goal. Walsh squandered a few early chances, including one chance in the 15th minute when Walsh’s Aubrey Rea got around Twinsburg goalie Angela Rose, only to put her shot off the post.
Rose had a very solid game in net, finishing with a seven saves. Walsh finished with an 11-2 edge in shots on goal.
With the game tied at 0-0 at the half, Twinsburg came out firing in the second half.
The Tigers came close to scoring the first goal a couple times, including off a corner kick in the 58th minute. King whipped a cross into the six-yard box, but the header went just wide.
Instead, it was the Warriors who opened the scoring on a corner kick. In the 66th minute, Margie Brown served the ball into the box and Walsh captain Sophia Gorsky charged through the box and headed the ball home.
“Gorsky is our lion,” McIntryre said. “She just plays hard all game long.”
Walsh also got a big lift with the return of senior midfielder Kathryn Ramicone, who had been sidelined for nearly a month due to a concussion.
“We were just waiting for a doctor’s release,” McIntyre said. “It’s like signing [Zlatan] Ibrahimovich.”
Ramicone made her presence felt in the 66th minute. Walsh’s Teah Haag whipped a ball into the box and Ramicone deflected the ball past Rose and into the net to make it 2-0.
“I was just trying to trap the ball, but it went in,” Ramicone said.
Even if the goal was accidental, McIntyre said Ramicone’s impact was huge.
“Ramicone is the most underrated player in the history of Walsh soccer,” McIntyre said.
Twinsburg pushed hard to get one goal back, but a great play in the 73rd minute denied the Tigers. Off corner kick from King, Harris put a shot on goal. The ball deflected off Walsh goalie Kiera Sarka, but Rea headed it off the line.
Ramicone then erased all doubt in the 77th minute. The senior got to a deflected ball outside the box, ran in one-on-one against Rose and put a low shot into the net.
Twinsburg will lose King, defenders Amy Hawersaat and Trisha Singh, midfielders Lola Davis and Kaela Turle and forward Gillian Voltz to graduation this spring.
“We graduate an exceptional class,” Garber said. “They’re a huge part of everything we’ve done the last two years. It’s hard to forecast the future, but I think we’ve set up a good culture over the last few years.”