Canfield girls soccer downs Howland 2-1
Canfield grinds out 2-1 win at Howland
HOWLAND — Canfield’s attacking prowess and goal-scoring ability gets a lot of credit for the team’s success this season, and deservedly so, having scored 72 goals in 15 games.
But the defense has matched the attack in terms of quality, and the Cardinals needed their defense to stand tall Monday night, especially playing for the second straight day, as they held off Howland 2-1 to remain unbeaten.
“It starts from the front line and back,” Canfield head coach Phil Simone said of the defense. “With the pressure up front and the pressure in the midfield, we try to relieve a little bit of that pressure on the backline. Then (the backline) has held up well when teams have gotten through that pressure. (Goalkeeper) Lolo (Padgett) has come up with some big saves, as well.”
In 15 games this season, the Cardinals (14-0-1) have allowed just 12 goals, while the defense has maintained six clean sheets in the process. Four of those conceded goals came in just one game, when Canfield faced and tied WPIAL powerhouse Avonworth from Pittsburgh, which is the Cardinals’ lone blemish this season.
Howland (10-4-2) knows just how hard it is to break Canfield down, having faced the Cardinals now twice this year, and only scoring a single goal between the two games.
“They’re a championship-pedigree team — they do all things and they compete, which is why I love playing them,” Howland head coach Greg Mitchell said. “You have to bring your best to get by them. Anytime you play a team, there’s always something that you can use as an example for your own (team) and from them, that’s how they compete. It’s nonstop, and they’re not afraid of the physicality, and they use their athleticism and their workrate to their advantage.”
The Cardinals largely dominated the possession and play in the first half Monday, breaking through for their first goal in the 21st minute.
Canfield won a free kick just outside the box. On the ensuing set piece, Maci Toporcer lofted a free kick across the face of goal to the waiting head of Hanna Wahib, who headed it home at the far post.
Then right after halftime, the Cardinals struck again. In the 43rd minute, Lorieonna Jannone tapped in a loose ball in a scrum in front of the Tigers’ goal.
Against Canfield’s possession and defense, Howland’s opportunities were few and far between. Right from kickoff, the Tigers broke right through the Cardinals’ defense, but the shot rolled wide of the net.
“We wanted to get back to our strengths,” Mitchell said. “We were trying to find Maddie (Madison Schmitz) in the middle and they were very compact in the middle of the field. So we had to get back to what we’re good at, and that’s utilizing the strength on the wings.”
Howland wouldn’t get another scoring opportunity until the waning seconds of the first half, but the Tigers tried to make the most of their chances.
Off a blistering counterattack in the 50th minute, Howland finally broke through, as Ava Yannucci slotted a low shot to the far post into the back of the net.
“It’s been like that for us all season. If we take advantage of our opportunities and put them away, the games would be impacted differently,” Mitchell said. “We had a lot more shots this time around than when we played them the first time, but we knew we’d also have to take chances getting forward more. We were willing to do that because obviously we needed a win to try to win the conference — a tie or loss wasn’t going to get it done. … I’m very proud of our girls and they represented well, but we have to convert the opportunities that we get, especially against teams like this.”
From that point on, Canfield pushed to try to kill the game off, especially as Howland tried to find an equalizer.
“We were trying to save our legs. We played in Columbus yesterday, so playing back-to-back games, the legs got real jello,” Simone said. “It was evident the legs were starting to go, so we were just trying to tell them to keep their composure and slow the game down a little bit. We bumped (Toporcer) down into midfield a little bit, so we were playing with four central midfielders to just try to contain them because we knew they were going to try to throw numbers forward.”
With just two regular season games remaining, against Boardman on Wednesday and Austintown Fitch early next week, Canfield has a chance to finish the regular season undefeated headed into the playoffs.
“Looking back at the season, I know the girls have some goals, but if you would have told me we would be undefeated at this point in the season, I wouldn’t have thought that,” Simone said. “So I’m very proud of where the girls are this time of year.”