Raiders had a run to remember

At right, South Range’s Alexis Giles (8) and Kirtland’s Lilia Valentic (3) vie for control of the ball. (Salem News/Patti Schaffer)

SOLON — South Range High School’s record-breaking girls soccer season came to an end as defending state runner-up Kirtland ousted the Raiders 9-0 in a Division III regional semifinal Tuesday night at Solon’s Stewart Field.

The Raiders made history this season by becoming the first South Range girls’ soccer team to advance to a regional tournament. They conclude their season with a 13-8 mark.

“We play a tough schedule against Division II teams and they (Kirtland) are the best team we’ve seen,” said South Range coach Paul Lindstrom. “They all have talent and speed and ball skills and they work together.”

Kirtland (18-2), which is ranked second in the state, controlled the action from the start as the Hornets displayed excellent ball-controlling skills and kept the Raiders on the defensive all evening. All but eight minutes of the first half were played in South Range’s half of the field.

“We graduated nine girls from last year,” said Kirtland coach Ed Bradac. “It’s a credit to the (returning) girls. They work at it and I’m just blessed that I get to coach such a nice group of girls.”

Kirtland had a whopping 41 shots on goal to four for the Raiders.

South Range goalkeeper Elizabeth Veneskey had a tremendous game with 14 saves against Kirtland’s non-stop attack on the Raiders’ goal.

“It was pretty difficult,” said Veneskey of her goal-keeping assignment against such an offensive-minded team like Kirtland. “They were just crossing the ball a lot and I had to be on both sides (of the goal) so it was pretty hard.”

Lindstrom had nothing but praise for Veneskey’s effort in goal.

“Elizabeth Veneskey, that was one of her better games against the best team,” he said, “and that’s what you want from your players. She just played outstanding.”

The Hornets, who had 27 shots on goal in the first half to zero for the Raiders, took a 1-0 led at the 4:37 mark when senior midfielder Jenna Sayle scored on a goal from the right side.

Kirtland made it 2-0 when Hornet freshman standout Erika Zschuppe found the back on the net at the 11:30 mark.

“No. 23, for us, Erika Zschuppe, the girl that plays up top, she’s one of the best freshmen in the state,” said Bradac. “In fact, this team only has three seniors on it.”

Kirtland made it 3-0 when Lidia Rodin scored a short-range goal from the left side at the 15:49 mark.

The Hornets then upped their advantage to 4-0 when Sayle tallied her second goal of the first half.

Veneskey had 10 saves in the first half for South Range.

“I told the girls I’m very, very proud of them,” said Lindstrom. “I told them, that (where Kirtland’s program is at) is where we want to head, so watch that team because that’s where we want to be.”

The Hornets’ scoring spree continued in the second half as Rodin sent a towering shot from deep on the left side into the net, making it 5-0 at the 41:01 mark. Lilia Valentic scored from the top of the circle to make it 6-0 at the 44:55 juncture.

The score ballooned to 7-0 at the 51:03 mark when Maya Zovko scored from short range and Zschuppe scored her second goal at the 53:43

mark, making it 8-0 and Mia Rini scored the final goal of the match, upping the margin to 9-0 in the 79th minute.

South Range’s Bree Kohler had two shots on goal, including an impressive breakaway against one Kirtland defender that went just left of the pipe at the 67:05 mark of the second half.

Kirtland began substituting freely with over 20 minutes left in the second half.

Kirtland finished the game with seven corner kicks to two for the Raiders.

Lindstrom praised his entire team as they look to the future.

“Each year we keep plugging away, and we have a great group of seniors and good group of young girls we want to build with,” he said. The seniors girls have taken us this far, so now we want to take the next step. I’m so proud of my seniors and the whole team.”

“It means a lot to us (to be the first South Range girls’ soccer team to make it to the regional),” added Veneskey. “It feels really good to even have made it this far.”

Kirtland advances to Saturday’s Division III regional title game and will Doylestown Chippewa with a trip to the state tournament on the line for the winner. The site of the game is to be announced.