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Canfield’s Phil Simone captures 400th victory in 2-1 win over West Branch

Correspondent photo / Lowell Spencer Canfield’s Hanna Wahib converts a penalty kick during the Cardinals’ 2-1 win over West Branch on Monday.

CANFIELD — The West Branch Warriors and Canfield Cardinals girls’ soccer teams are certainly no strangers to one another having met twice in the past two years.

That familiarity helped the Cardinals top the Warriors 2-1 in a defensive, tournament-type regular season meeting Monday night.

“We weren’t quite sure with Bri Thomas, one of their top players going down last week, how they were going to set up,” Cardinals coach Phil Simone said. “We know a lot of their players and I have worked with some of their players when they were 11, 12 years old. So, I know them pretty well and it’s typically a very close game.”

The Warriors, who dropped to 8-2-2 on the season, had beaten the Cardinals in the regular season meeting last year, then fell to them in the Regional Semifinals. Two years ago, the Cardinals won both the regular season encounter and their District meeting to sweep the Warriors.

The 11-0-1 Cardinals are now on a six-game winning streak following a tie with Avonworth (Pa.) at the beginning of the month. The victory also gave Cardinals head coach Phil Simone his 400th career victory.

“It’s definitely a huge milestone,” Simone said. “It ages you a little bit, dates you a little bit and shows you where you are at. To look back at all the teams and all the years and all the victories is just a pleasure.”

Canfield captain Hanna Wahib added: “We knew it was a big game coming in and it was coach’s 400th win, so we all wanted it so bad. We came out and played very well.”

The game was a defensive struggle for both teams as The Cardinals only generated six shots on goal while the Warriors had three. It wasn’t until the 14:53 mark of the first half that the Cardinals finally broke through. Cardinals’ standout forward Maci Toporcer was able to direct a kick through traffic and past Warrior’s goalkeeper Zoe Sanders.

“Once we had the first goal then we had some momentum, which helped us keep going,” Wahib said. “Their defense played very well and we knew we had to get a couple of goals.”

A minute and a half later Wahib was able to find the back of the net on a penalty kick. That goal came at the 13:17 mark and staked the Cardinals to a 2-0 advantage.

“The first goal that they got was honestly just miscommunication on our part,” West Branch head coach Cheryl Ficco admitted. “The second one was an unfortunate handball. The goals didn’t come too much from the run of play. They were, the first one an oddity, and the second an unfortunate handball in trying to clear the ball out of the box.”

The Warriors kept battling and finally found a goal with 51 seconds remaining in the first half. Sophia Gregory was able to power a corner kick past the Cardinals’ goaltender Lolo Padgett, giving her team some momentum and cutting the deficit to 2-1.

Neither team could generate any offense in the second half as the defenses swarmed to the ball on every pass.

Both teams only managed one shot on goal in the second half.

The Warriors will need to regroup quickly as they have an important EBC game at Carrollton on Wednesday night. The Cardinals also return to the field on Wednesday when they host Warren G. Harding.

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