By Greg Gulas
The Walsh Jesuit High girls soccer program has five state titles and three national championships to their credit, all coming since 2000.
Last year they were ranked first in the state and second in the nation heading into state play, but lost a heartbreaking, 4-3 shootout to eventual state runner-up, Toledo St. Ursula Academy, in the semifinals.
It’s a game that has stuck in their minds for nearly a year now. The only team standing in their way of a return trip to the state semifinals? Canfield.
Goals by Abbey Filicko, Sandra Yu and Maddy John helped lift Walsh Jesuit to 3-0 win over the Cardinals Saturday in a Division II regional final at Broadview Heights High.
Next week, the Warriors (19-0-2) will again meet the Royals, who beat Bellville Clear Fork, 1-0, earlier in the day.
“We played better than the final score indicates but take nothing away from Walsh Jesuit because they are a good team,” said Cardinals coach Phil Simone, whose team was out-shot 14-4. We gave up a goal on a corner kick, created some chances and had a few scoring opportunities but just couldn’t cash in.”
Simone said Canfield’s goal entering the season was to get back into the regional finals “and then look beyond.”
“Anything less than that would have been disappointing to this group,” he added. “I told the girls in the locker room that they were a phenomenal group who got along all season and just happened to set some records along the way.
“I wouldn’t trade them for any other group out there.”
The Cardinals (17-4), who set a school record for wins, had won 10 straight. The three goals were more than the Cardinals had allowed in their last nine games combined.
Filicko’s corner kick at 24:37 of the opening half gave Walsh Jesuit the early advantage.
At the 9:07 mark, Yu scored off a steal from 10 yards out that barely snuck inside the Cardinals’ left post.
“Our goal was to start fast and keep the pressure on all game,” said Dino McIntyre, Walsh’s coach. “We play a tough schedule and that is really helpful this time of the season.
“We want to produce corner kicks. As for Sandra [Yu], she’s an outstanding player and our coach on the field.”
Yu then assisted John on the game’s final goal with 16:08 remaining.
The Cardinals outscored teams 94-19 this season, registering 12 shutouts. Of their four losses, three came by shutout and all were by 3-0 scores.
“When your team is winning, your defense is sometimes overshadowed and gets lost in the shuffle,” Simone said. “Holding opponents to just five goals over the final 11 games is truly outstanding so you see how important they have been for us all season long.”
One of the stalwarts of the Canfield defense was senior Lauren Pettola.
“Today didn’t turn out like we had hoped, but this team had a closeness and chemistry that carried us to the regional championship game. We developed as a team and grew each and every game by working together,” Pettola said.
“Because of that we had a very successful season.”