STREETSBORO — With plenty of new faces and a new coach, the Aurora girls soccer team stumbled out of the gates.
However, the Greenmen caught fire and were poised to reach a destination that had been elusive to them for quite awhile.
That would be the Elite Eight.
Despite a valiant effort, Aurora fell just a bit short. And just like last year, it ended in brutal fashion for the Greenmen.
Fourth-seeded Aurora’s season came to a close after losing a gut-wrenching 1-0 decision to second-seeded Chagrin Falls. The Chagrin Division II district title match took place Thursday at Streetsboro High School’s Quinn Field.
The Tigers (16-2-1) who lost to the Greenmen 2-1 in a district semifinal game the previous year, scored the game-winning goal off a set piece.
With less than a minute left, senior midfielder Bella Dalessandro took a corner kick from the right side. Her left-footed kick landed in the middle of Aurora’s penalty box where Peyton Gellin was lurking.
The sophomore midfielder/forward leapt into the air to retrieve Dalessandro’s kick and headed the ball into the back of the net with less than 50 seconds left.
"It was a great play," Greenmen first-year head coach Domenica McClintock said. "It was two teams battling it hard from start to finish."
Aurora (8-9-1) got deep in Chagrin Falls’ end in the final seconds, but the Tigers gained possession as the clock expired.
When the two former Chagrin Valley Conference rivals met during the regular season, Chagrin Falls took it to the Greenmen en route to a convincing 4-0 win.
Round two turned out to be much more intense as neither squad gave the other much room to breathe.
"It just goes to show how much growth this team has had," McClintock said. "From the beginning of the season until the end, we were not the same team we started as. We finished a heck of a lot stronger. We made a great run at it in the tournament."
Demagall finished with four saves, including a stop on a hard shot from point-blank range off the foot of Gellin with approximately 5:30 remaining. The Tigers had a 4-0 edge in corner kicks.
At last year’s Kent district final, the Greenmen lost to Revere 1-0 in a penalty-kick shootout.
While the players may have been heartbroken, their coach showed no signs of a somber mood.
"This season has been fantastic," McClintock said. "Every single one of these girls has shown tremendous growth as people and players. We have made great strides to become one team, one program, one family."
McClintock said goodbye to seven seniors. They are midfielder/defender Allyson Devins; midfielders Angelina Picone, Makayla Teichow, Kendyl Trem and Kathryn Walter; defender Ashley Ruehr; and midfielder/forward Anna Brown.
"I think, collectively, they’re great," McClintock said of the seniors. "I’m a firm believer that everybody brings something to the table. Everybody is a unique piece to the puzzle. Every single one of them brought something."
Despite these losses, McClintock believes she has a potential powerhouse next year. And when she returns to the pitch some 10 months from now, losing another district final won’t be an option.
"We want to make sure we get back in this spot and get to regionals next time," McClintock said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.