Mimi Vitello scored two goals as the Cardinals posted their 14th shutout.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- Patience, persistence and a strong defensive effort paid off for the Cardinal Mooney High girls soccer team against arch-rival Ursuline, in the Division II district championship game Thursday night at Canfield High Stadium before some 350 fans, including a big student turnout from both schools.
Ursuline, which lost twice earlier to Mooney this season, came into the showdown with a lot of momentum and a determined offense and dominated the first half, but the Irish missed four opportunities to score as the half ended in a scoreless tie.
But Mooney's defense asserted itself in the second half to virtually shut down Ursuline's offense, while Ashley Cuba broke the ice for the Cardinals with a goal. Mimi Vitello followed with two goals and Kara Joseph added the final score as Mooney won, 4-0, to advance to the regional semifinals.
The Cardinals (15-2-1), registering their 10th straight shutout and 14th of the season, advanced to play Holy Name next Wednesday at a site and time to be announced.
Mooney defense delivers
"Our back four [defensive players] helped us in the first half when Ursuline was strong on offense. They kept us in the game," said Mooney coach Joe DeMay, whose Cardinals managed only one good shot on goal in the first half, while Katelyn Tondo-Steele of the Irish missed two of her team's four good chances. "Then our attacking team came on strong in the second half."
Cardinals' goalie Veronica Skowron also excelled in the clutch by repelling the early Irish attack.
Coach Frank Sikich of Ursuline (9-8-2), whose Irish had lost to Mooney by 7-1 and 3-0 previously, said his team failed to get off to an early lead which they needed.
"We had to capitalize on our opportunities in the first half. If we had put in those [early] shots, it would have been a closer game. You have to make the opportunities you have against a good team like Mooney," said Sikich, conceding Mooney's defense was just too tough to overcome in the second half.
"They made some [defensive] adjustments. They put defensive pressure on [our] midfielders in the second half. It was a very physical game."
Cuba broke the scoreless tie with about only three minutes elapsed in the second half when she connected from the right of the goal with a long, left-footed line-drive that curved to the right and into the net away from the outstretched hands of Ursuline goalie Jolanta Carkido.
Then about five minutes later, Katie Griswold of Mooney was tripped while attacking close to the goal and Ursuline was penalized. Vitello then made the penalty kick to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
Mooney continued its offensive onslaught when Cuba's shot from close range was deflected off Vitello and rolled into the net with about 23:46 remaining to make it 3-0. Vitello got credit for the goal, her 13th of the season, and Cuba got the assist.
Then Kara Joseph found the net from just in front of the goal without an assist for the final score.
"The penalty kick [by Vitello] took a lot of momentum out of us. It's hard to come back from two goals," said Sikich.
DeMay said Mooney followed a similar pattern as in its district semifinal win over Warren JFK on Monday by getting its offense going in the second half.