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Poland pushes Kenston to edge, but falls 3-1 in district finals

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Poland’s Syda Masucci battles for possession of the ball with Kenston’s Morgan Mintz. Masucci scored the lone Bulldogs goal Thursday at Ravenna High School

RAVENNA — Poland’s girls soccer team is used to the underdog role. After two straight upsets in the playoffs, they were even enjoying the role.

In Thursday’s Division II district finals contest against Kenston, the ninth-seeded Bulldogs threw everything they had at their top-seeded opposition. In fact, for 78 minutes, they played dead even with the state-ranked Bombers.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, a few lapses cost them as they surrendered two goals within a minute and fell to Kenston, 3-1.

“I thought we played well,” Bulldogs coach Neil Huda said. “I thought we had, I think two minutes of bad soccer and I think it cost us. Overall we played well. I’m proud of my team and we gave the effort. I don’t think anybody thought we would be here or would give them any type of a game and I think we did.”

Poland actually got on the board first, with Syda Masucci putting the Bulldogs up in the opening minutes of the game. It was the first goal Kenston had surrendered in the tournament and only the second they’ve given up in the month of October.

Not too long after, the Bombers responded with a goal of their own to tie the game back up. Entering the game, Huda knew that getting an early goal would be crucial.

“We haven’t been too good on defending corner kicks, so we thought we would need one quick and it worked out great,” he said. “It was huge. Then they got that corner and put it in and then it was tied. It was still thought back and forth.”

The teams traded chances for the remainder of the first half and into the second. Near the midway point of the second half is where Kenston took over. Less than 20 seconds apart, Kenston’s Lilah Cornell recorded two goals to completely wrestle momentum away.

For the remainder of the game, the teams traded chances once again, but with a cushion built up, Kenston held on to win.

The loss snaps a seven-game win streak that dates back to the beginning of the month, rebounding off a 5-1 loss to Canfield. Poland (15-3-1) has battled a ton this season, between contact tracing and an unforgiving schedule, there were no breaks, but the team pushed through.

Leading up to the district finals, Poland beat fifth-seeded Salem and eighth-seeded Mogadore Field to reach this point.

“We thought we had a good team, but we didn’t know how good it was,” Huda said. “We started off and some girls had to sit out because they were in contact tracing. In our first match against South Range, we lost 2-1 and I was missing my two main girls. Then they came back and we ended up going through the season.

“We played West Branch and ended up tying them and then we had one bad game against Canfield. Then we put it together and I’m so proud of them.”

Poland’s sophomore goalkeeper Leanne Williams recorded 10 saves in the loss.

The Bulldogs graduate a senior class of four girls, Avrey Grischow, Syda Masucci, Mia Marantis and Bella Milano. Huda hopes that the impact his senior class had will be enough to keep building up the program.

“The girls looked up to them,” Huda said. “They were the leaders of the team, and I thought they were in some main positions that we needed.

“I’m hoping that we get good numbers and people will get interested in the program. I think we’ve got a couple good classes coming up, so I’m hoping that people get excited.”

byauger@tribtoday.com

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