Granville seemingly is always very good in girls soccer.
It’s just hasn’t shown in the tournament.
That all changed in 2013.
The Blue Aces won four more games than they ever had in the postseason and nearly won a Division II state championship.
So what finally put them over the hump? Here’s how I saw it, after covering this talented, committed group of girls from the district finals on.
* 12 seniors. Most of this crew had played together since their rec league days. Captains Gabby Male, Chloe Kent, Riley Rosinski and Kina McCombs provided the leadership, and the rest blended in for outstanding chemistry.
* Coaching. Head coach Scott Forster was quick to point out the contributions of assistant coaches Rick Semer and Andy Male, especially in practice on the defensive end. Forster played the game collegiately, knows it well and knows how to relate it to these girls without being too overbearing.
* Sensational sophomores Nikki Cox and Tori Long.
Cox, a forward with great ball skills, quickness, strength and toughness, scored an amazing 50 goals, shattering her own school record of 29. After the state title game, a Rocky River assistant coach came up and shook her hand. “What year are you?” he said, surely expecting to hear junior or senior. When he heard sophomore, he shook his head in disbelief and smiled.
Speaking of toughness, no one showed more of it than the savvy Long, who dislocated her left thumb in the regional finals against Hillsboro. She played in the state semifinals against super-talented Kettering Alter with it wrapped and in a soft cast, never even felt it and turned in a stellar, shutout performance which helped send the Blue Aces to Columbus Crew Stadium.
Out-shot 17-6, Granville still found its way into the state title game with a defensive performance that had its fans roaring. A bad start against powerful Rocky River may have cost them a state title, but there’s no doubt the Blue Aces belonged there.
Some may point to the Division II Central District being divided up into two brackets as contributing to Granville’s’s success and the avoidance of nemesis DeSales, which had ousted the Blue Aces in two straight district final heartbreakers. I don’t think so. Granville was kicking this door down, regardless of who was in its way.
Now that a major hurdle is cleared, don’t expect for the Blue Aces to let up despite the loss of this great group of seniors.
Cox and Long each still have two more years. Another talented sophomore, Taylor Beitzel, missed the season with a knee injury and will be back. So will freshman Reilley Welles, who missed the tournament with injury but was a major contributor during the regular season. And there’s Granville’s seemingly never-ending pool of talent coming up from the younger grades, no doubt further energized by this team’s success.
As the tournament trail progressed, the fan support grew. It was impressive in the state semifinals at Hilliard Bradley, and even more so in the state championship game.
Stick around, fans. You need to get out and see this team next year during the regular season. It should be worth your time.