High school girls soccer / Strongsville 4, Twinsburg 0: Mustangs too strong for Tigers in regional
STRONGSVILLE — Twinsburg girls soccer fans aren't likely to forget the last time the Tigers played Strongsville — or the controversy that followed it.
The Mustangs ended the best season in school history for the Tigers in 2018, beating Twinsburg 1-0 in a Division I state semifinal game.
Tiger coach John Garber diplomatically noted Strongsville wasn't his favorite team.
Many players from that state semifinal faced each other against Nov. 3 when Strongsville hosted the Tigers in Division I regional semifinal game at Pat Catan Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, there was no controversy or doubt over who the better team was this time.
Led by a hat trick for All-Ohio forward Shelby Sallee, the Mustangs (17-0) scored three goals before halftime and cruised to a 4-0 win over the Tigers (13-4-3) .
Strongsville advances to the Division I regional final against Archbishop Hoban on Saturday.
Garber admitted Strongsville was probably the best team his squad had played, but was happy with his team's effort.
"Their midfield was just spectacular tonight," Garber said. "You can tell they are a mature team. "I thought with a little more direct play tonight, we would be able to get some chances. We did get a few chances. I think Emily Patrzck had a good shot, but she put it just over. We had some good corner kicks, too. Strongsville was just clinical in their finishing."
Strongsville coach Todd Church said he felt everyone on his team played excellent.
"All 22 players contributed tonight," Church said, "Our midfield with Peyton Felton, Sarah Robinson and Libby Majka played an exceptional game. We were able to control the midfield."
Strongsville's attack seemed to come in waves from the opening kickoff, but Twinsburg was up to the task for the first 25 minutes.
Tigers goaltender Alexis Cellura had a busy night, finishing with six saves and breaking up several other chances.
"Alexis was phenomenal in goal tonight," Garber said. "I think Erika David did a great job in defense as well."
Church said he was keeping an eye on Tiger forward Jadyn Harris, as the Mustangs man-marked her every time she touched the ball.
After several near misses, Strongsville broke through in the 29th minute.
A bouncing ball in the Twinsburg box forced Cellura to come off her line, but Sallee beat her to the ball and headed it into the net.
"I think offensively we knew were had to attack the outside," Sallee said. "We knew there was going to be plenty of room outside. It's always going to be tough when you're playing in regionals."
"She's a tremendous player," Church said. "In big games, you want your best players to step up and she stepped up tonight.
With the Tigers' resistance dented, Strongsville pushed forward even harder.
In the 32nd minute, Sallee doubled Strongsville's lead when she hit a high shot that went over Cellura and then dipped just under the bar to make it 3-0.
Strongsville made it 3-0 in the 36th minute, when the Tigers were unable to clear a ball at the top of the box.
The ball deflected off the Twinsburg defense and Strongsville forward Taylor Demmerie pounced on the loose ball, firing a low shot under Cellura and into the net.
Behind 3-0 at the half, Twinsburg knew it had to get a goal early in the second half to have any chance of a comeback.
Instead, Sallee put the game out of reach, as she completed her hat trick in the 49th minute, turning in a goal from a sharp angle.
"Shelby is an All-American," Garber said. "I think she might be the best player in Ohio."
Interestingly, Cellura might have created the Tigers' best scoring chance off a free kick late in the game. She arced a high shot on net from just inside the midfield stripe, but Mustang goaltender Abby Kudla rose up to make the save.
Kudla finished with four saves. Strongsville finished with an 11-4 edge in shots on goal, as the Mustangs also hit the post once. Strongsville also had an 8-3 edge in corner kicks.
Sour as the ending was for the Tigers, Garber said his team accomplished a lot, given a wealth of uncertainty at the start of the season.
"We're going to miss everything that our seniors did for us over the last four seasons," Garber said. "There wasn't a lot of certainty about what we could do this year. I think by going 13-4-3, winning a district title by beating Walsh Jesuit, this group probably overachieved a bit this year. We've got a good young core coming back."