By Brandon Judeh
The Champion girls soccer team’s 6-0 loss to Gates Mills Hawken in a Division III regional semifinal match on Tuesday night marked the end of an era.
Head coach Dan Houle has decided to retire after 22 seasons with the Golden Flashes.
“Everything has to come to an end and to sum it up one of the girls on our team, her mother played for me,” Houle said.
The Champion players say they will miss him.
“It’s been a blast having him as our coach for the past four years and to be honest I don’t think we would have made it this far with anyone else,” said senior defender Jenna Parry. “So we are really appreciative of his coaching.”
Houle says he has plenty of memories during his time at Champion and leaves with no regrets.
“Picking up my 200th win last season was special, so was winning the district title this year and in the past, but really I just enjoy coaching girls,” Houle said. “They are fun to be around and I had a great time doing this for so many years.”
The Golden Flashes (14-4-2) stayed with the Hawks in the first half at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School as goalie Kelly Robinson and defenders Tayler Kesling, Hannah Sisler, Danielle James and Parry did a great job of slowing Hawken’s offense.
“I really liked the way we were playing in the first half,” Houle said. “We were playing very strong, but Hawken was like a machine out there. They were moving the ball the entire game and never stopped, they are so well-trained.”
The Hawks finally broke through in the 22nd minute when Katherine Zalar found Katarina Doncevic for the first goal of the game and a 1-0 halftime lead.
Hawken’s offense really awakened in the second half.
Three minutes in Daniela Brkic curved a perfect ball just inside the goal post to increase the lead to 2-0.
Five minutes later Zalar added a goal and 22 seconds after that Bianca Medancic score to make it 4-0 and put the game out of reach.
Marley Magruder and Seysha Mehta also scorted for the Hawks (14-1-5) in the 22nd minute of the second half.
“A lot of our strength comes from the back, but they had a different style of play from anything that we have seen this season and I don’t think we were prepared for how to stop that,” Parry said. “We are used to teams in our area that more or less just play a kickball style of play.”
Robinson finished out her career with 12 saves and Sisler, James, Parry, Maura Jacobs, Amber Walker, Courtney Goebel and Bethany Lewis all played their final game for the Golden Flashes.
“We had a fantastic season,” Parry saud. “At the beginning of the season I don’t think anyone thought we would make it this far, so we are very satisfied to be district champions.”
Hawken will meet Elyria Catholic in a Division III regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday at Twinsburg High School. Elyria Catholic beat Cardinal Mooney, 2-1, in another semifinal Tuesday night.