West Branch extends shutout streak
Biery scores only goal to oust Poland
By Dan Hiner
West Branch junior Lexi Biery scored a second-half goal to push the Warriors girls soccer team past Poland 1-0 on Monday night in a Division II district semifinal.
Biery kicked a deflected shot to the left of Poland goalkeeper Gabby Romano for the game winner.
“Once we got that goal we were fired up and we were ready to get more,” Biery said.
The Warriors (15-0-2) will play Cardinal Mooney in the district final Thursday at South Range High School.
The Bulldogs (12-5-1) had a chance to take the lead at the start of the second half. Less than two minutes in, Avery Grischow appeared to score on a header for the first goal of the game, but the officials called offsides prior to the attempt.
Grischow’s header was the closest Poland came to putting points on the board.
West Branch goalie Sam Plocher made a save and recorded the Warriors’ fourth consecutive shutout.
Poland kept the game scoreless in the first half despite a lack of communication on the field and a couple defensive breakdowns.
Bulldogs head coach Joel Monaco admitted the team lacked energy in the first half. But Poland was more sound defensively and enthusiastic after halftime.
“I got at ‘em at halftime,” Monaco said. “I know how much potential they have and how much speed ... how aggressive they can be.
“We just seemed to lack [energy] in the first half of games recently. But the second half, much better, much more competitive and a couple calls [go differently] and that game’s a completely different game.”
Although she allowed Biery’s goal, Romano kept Poland in the game and finished with five saves.
“[Romano’s] fantastic. She’s a wonderful goalkeeper,” Monaco said. “This is her first year playing as a matter of fact.”
The Poland goalie didn’t have a spot to start the year. Monaco made her the backup goalkeeper, but due to injury, was forced into the starting lineup.
“She’s got God-given abilities to play that position,” Monaco said. “She’s very good.”
For Monaco, the future is bright for Poland. The Bulldogs will lose seniors Karlina Milano, Nina Centofanti and Kat Partika, but the rest of the squad is returning.
Monaco said the Bulldogs will learn for the loss and will be better suited to play a team like West Branch in the future.
“A majority of our kids are freshmen and sophomores. We’re only losing three seniors which is crazy that we made it this far with such young talent,” Monaco said.
“West Branch is a great, competitive team. They’re coached extremely well, they’re very good at what they do, they make runs and if you don’t mark correctly and communicate as a defensive line, you can see what can happen.”
Despite the Warriors’ top seed in the bracket, Biery said the team is continuing to grow and the playoff win was “just the next step.”
“Obviously we’re undefeated, but we’re still growing as a team and as players,” Biery said. “This is only going to challenge us more. We’re taking the challenge and we’re gonna go for it.”