Third time is charm as Twinsburg girls soccer beats Walsh in district final

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Twinsburg captain Tara Garing throws the ball in during a game earlier this season. The Tigers won the district title with a 2-1 win at Walsh Jesuit Oct. 29.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — From the moment the brackets were announced in the Division I Northeast 1 district, one big matchup loomed.

If the seeds held, top-seeded Walsh Jesuit would have a date with Twinsburg in the district final — for the third time in the last four seasons

Twinsburg coach John Garber and his team made it clear they wanted to get past Warriors after falling in the district final the last two times.

The third time proved to be the charm for the Tigers.

Twinsburg pushed out to a two-goal lead just after halftime and hung on to score a 2-1 win over the Warriors on a rainy evening Thursday at Conway Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers (13-3-3) claimed their second district title in school history and advanced to a regional semifinal at Strongsville Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Strongsville defeated Hathaway Brown 4-0 Oct. 29 to win the Northeast 4 district.

Walsh ended its season at 11-3-5.

Garber said, even compared to the Tigers' 2018 district title, being able to beat the Warriors made this one sweet.

"They're one of the most storied programs in Ohio," Garber said. "This was [for] all the girls who played against them the last few years. To finally get a win against them feels pretty special."

Tiger forward Jadyn Harris agreed.

"We wanted to beat Walsh so bad this year," Harris said. "We finally got even with them."

Warriors coach Dino McIntyre said his team's effort was there, especially in the second half, but Walsh just could not find the equalizing goal.

"We had a few chances, but we didn't even get some them on net," McIntyre said. "There a couple of a chances that went wide. A lot of our crosses rolled right to the goaltender."

Walsh came out firing the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Tigers struck on their first solid chance at goal.

In the 12th minute, a cross from Twinsburg bounced off a Walsh defender, but Tiger midfielder Brenna Utrup reacted to the ball first and smashed it into the net.

After the goal, the Tigers spent the majority of the first half in Walsh territory, though they were unable to get another goal past Walsh keeper Kate Constantini, who finished with four saves.

"It's happened to us a bunch of times this year," McIntyre said of his team's defensive posture. "We have so many young players this year. It's the nature of the beast."

Up 1-0 at the half, Garber told his troops to expect a big push from the Warriors.

"We knew they were going attack us with all the pride they had," Garber said. "Lucky for us, Arriah was able to find a goal."

Indeed, junior forward Arriah Gilmer made it 2-0 Twinsburg on a counterattack just after the second-half kickoff.

Running onto a nice through ball from Harris, Gilmer sprinted down the right side, went one-on-one with Constantini and smashed a high shot into the net.

Although she didn't score, Harris was the focus for Twinsburg's offense — and later defense — all night long.

"She's been doing that for us since she was a freshman," Garber said. "I switched her back to defense during the last 15 minutes, because I knew we were going to be facing through balls and she's so fast, she could get to them."

As Garber predicted, Walsh threw everything at the Tigers after the second goal.

The Warriors got back in the game in the 51st minute, thanks to their leading scorer.

Off a nice cross into the box from junior Kenndy Alberty, sophomore Natalie Shimmel hit a beautiful header across the face of goal to make it 2-1.

"We wanted to man-mark [Shimmel] to keep her under control," Garber said. "She got free for one moment and look what happened."

With Walsh pressing harder and Garber shifting Harris back, the game was played in Twinsburg's end for the final 25 minutes.

However, the Warriors didn't register another shot on goal after their score, as Tiger goaltender Alexis Cellura and the Tiger defense parried multiple forward rushes.

Cellura finished with three saves, and also did a great job cutting out Walsh crosses and loose balls in the box, despite the slippery conditions.

"I think she bobbled the ball once tonight," Gaber said. "We've had some shutouts this year. She's been an unsung hero for us."

As for the Warriors, although losing the district final represents an early playoff exit by Walsh's historic standards, McIntyre called this season a success, given the youth and inexperience of his team.

"The girls did the best they could this year," McIntyre said. "This group definitely played up to it potential."