Grace-ful goal lifts Champion over Warren JFK
Second-half goal gives
Champion district title
By BOB ETTINGER
Champion sophomore midfielder Madi Haines might have lived a lifetime in the mere seconds she waited to see if teammate Abbi Grace’s shot was going to hit the back of the net or sail wide.
When the shot did, in fact, hit the net, Gaines was able to relax in the Golden Flashes’ 1-0 victory over Warren JFK in a Division III district final at Girard’s Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.
“I was just waiting and waiting for something to happen,” Haines said. “I saw the keeper go down and I saw Abbi go down then I saw it go in.”
Champion (16-2) will play in a regional tournament for the third time in four seasons.
“I was the assistant for the first two,” Champion coach Stephanie Tice said. “It kind of feels like it’s all on your shoulders [going into the game]. I know at some point in time, I have to have faith in the players. And I do. It’s surreal. I’m happy for the girls, the school and the community of Champion. We have a tradition in Champion when we win a championship where the police will escort us into town letting everyone know we brought home the trophy. It’s awesome to be the head of that.”
The Golden Flashes will battle Doylestown Chippewa in a Division III regional semifinal at Ravenna High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Madison Luckett started the scoring play as she broke away from the midfield with the ball, then sent it up ahead to Haines on her right. Haines took a dribble before sending it across the field to Grace, who dribbled in, drawing Warren JFK goalkeeper Alexis Chieffo out. Chieffo went low to get the ball, but by the time she got there, Grace had shot. The players ended up in a heap on the ground as the ball sailed into the net with 25:02 remaining in the contest.
“I saw my side was open,” said Grace, who never saw the shot go in. “Everyone was attracted to Madi Haines’ side. I got it, went in, and shot. I went over top of the goalie and went down. When I heard it went in, I was relieved.”
The lone scoring play of the night was reminiscent of the way the Golden Flashes warm up prior to games.
“As a coach, you always want to see what you teach the girls be executed; not only be executed, but executed successfully,” Tice said. “Every single game, we talk about doing the basics. Soccer is a simple game. It’s great to see them do the simple things like run to the back post. Abbi made a great run and Madi made a great pass. It came when we needed it, for sure.”
The goal was a heartbreaker for the Eagles (12-4-1).
“Honestly, as soon as they got the goal, I wasn’t convinced the game was over,” Warren JFK coach Kayla Zoccole said. “But when they scored, a fire was lit in Champion and one went out in us. I tried to get them to keep attacking.”
Emma Gumont had 10 saves in the shutout.
“The defense right in front of me is really important,” Gumont said. “They did a good job keeping the ball out of the box.”
The vast majority of the Warren JFK shots were taken from more than 20 yards out.
“Emma is a gamer,” Tice said. “Emma Gumont came to play. She’s just a presence on the field. When she’s on, she’s completely dominant. I don’t know what we’d do without her.”
The Eagles attempted seven shots on goal in the first half, but just three in the second half.
“I think Champion just came out in the second half ready to play stronger defense,” Zoccole said. “If we could’ve gotten one in during the first half, things would’ve been different. We were shooting high when we should’ve been shooting low. Champion earned it.”