Kiki Willis scored three times as the Cardinals made it two straight victories over the Falcons.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- Coach Lenny Krispinsky slept one hour Monday night. He had too much on his mind.
Foremost was his Cardinal Mooney High boys soccer team, which would play one of its biggest games of the season Tuesday.
Krispinsky must be resting easier today because the defending Steel Valley Conference champion is back on top.
"This really sets the tone for the rest of our season," Krispinsky said.
Ignited by Kiki Willis' three goals, the Cardinals conquered their stiffest challenge for the SVC crown, Austintown Fitch, with a 4-2 victory at Valley Sports.
"I consider this the SVC championship," Willis said. "Fitch is a good team, and I credit them for giving us a challenge."
Mooney had beaten Fitch 3-0 on the final day of SVC play last season to win its first boys soccer title. Tuesday, the Cardinals showed they could win again.
"Mooney soccer has just come around the past three, four years," Krispinsky said. "We're getting players to play year-round, and you notice it on the field."
Mooney (4-1, 1-0) made it two straight victories over Fitch and took a big step toward winning the SVC's final crown; Fitch and Boardman will join the Federal League next season.
"We prepared for this game," Fitch coach Rigo Castillo said. "We knew it was them and us. Boardman is still there and Ursuline is still there -- and no disrespect to them -- but the two best teams in the district stepped on this field tonight."
Willis, a sophomore forward, capped the scoring after taking a pass from junior Christo Frangopolis. Positioned in the middle 25 yards away, Willis rocketed the ball into the back of the net with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining.
"Without a doubt he's the best player in the area. He's unbelievable," Castillo said. "He showed us that he's for real. Kiki was the difference."
One minute before Willis' final goal, Fitch (4-3, 0-1) had cut its deficit to 3-2 on senior Shea Stewart's second goal of the game.
The Falcons had played all but 1:33 of the second half with a one-man advantage after Mooney's Josh Werning was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Sam Camens.
"There was no letdown in these kids," Krispinsky said. "Everybody stepped up and created an invisible 11th player."
No doubt, Willis did, showing off his speed and shot power.
"Those balls are going about 80, 85 miles an hour, and that will really scare the heck out of some goalkeepers," Krispinsky said.
Taking the lead
Willis' first two goals gave Mooney a 3-0 lead after senior Pat Walker opened the scoring off an assist by junior D.J. Meyers five minutes in.
Willis buried a shot off an assist by Kevin Miller at 12:52 of the first half and outmaneuvered a defender after a run down the left side for a goal at 28:48 of the second half.
His final goal, no doubt timely, may have been his most impressive, simply because of the range and power placed on the ball.
"It's all in the form and sheer determination," Willis said. "I shoot and hope it goes in."