Kirtland stings South Range in D-III regional semifinal
Kirtland’s Hornets end Raiders’ dream of returning to state tournament
By Brian Dzenis
As a returning state finalist, South Range expected a sequel.
But an early Kirtland goal ended the Raiders’ bid for back-to-back trips to Columbus with a 1-0 victory in the Division III region semifinal on Wednesday. Kirtland (16-3-1) is the upstart of this year’s tournament, with the Hornets coming off the first district title in school history. The Hornets dominated possession early and didn’t let up.
“They played hard all 80 minutes. I don’t know if we were expecting it,” Raiders senior captain Marc Vennetti said. “They brought it at the beginning and we didn’t. It was as simple as that.”
The Raiders (16-2-0) looked like their 2015 selves, putting 10 behind the ball and leaving junior striker Brandon Youngs up top by himself. That’s how South Range made last year’s state final, but Raiders coach Mike Bailey said that was more a product of what the Hornets were doing.
“To be honest, we didn’t come out conservative. We came out flat and I don’t know what that was,” Bailey said. “At halftime, we talked about some things — our effort level — we changed some things defensively.
“They didn’t make it easy for us. We spent a long time chasing them and it took a half for us to get settled.”
Kirtland took advantage of the scoring chance monopoly and had six corner kicks in the first half to South Range’s zero. On the fifth of those corner kicks, the Hornets’ Jared Ianiro scored from close range.
The Raiders became a little more industrious in the second half with two forwards up top instead of one, but the offense still sputtered.
The team’s best chances in the second half were Youngs’ free kicks from between 30 and 40 yards out.
None mounted a serious threat as just one was on target.
Kirtland mimicked its opponent in the second half with a defense-heavy style plus a penchant for wasting time. Long windups for throw-ins, subs taking their time coming off the field and Kirtland goalie Danny Jahnke milking as much time as he could before punting away the ball.
South Range got more aggressive in the closing minutes. The best chance the Raiders had was a Youngs free kick from 19 yards out with a 1:03 left, but the junior hit it over the crossbar.
With the loss, Bailey’s first season as the Raiders’ head coach is in the books. He’ll return nine starters next year, including Youngs, his top scorer. Cogs from that state final team — Vennetti, Michael Kuhns, Paul Richter and Damyen Bair — will graduate.
“South Range is a great program, they gave me a great four years. This team has such a great future and at the end of the day, we have nothing to hold our heads about,” Vennetti said. “We’ve done some amazing things.”
South Range will be out of the ITCL and without a league next year, so Bailey is pursuing a tougher schedule.
“We’re able to play a lot more teams because we have that availability,” he said. “We’re going to load up the schedule that should prepare us for a deep run and hopefully a deeper run than what we did here.”