Nikki Cox found the back of the net with her right foot, left foot, head and once with her shoe untied.
Just another day on the pitch for Granville’s sensational sophomore. Only this day was the biggest to date for her team.
Cox scored all four goals in the top-seeded Blue Aces’ 4-1 victory of second-seeded Bloom-Carroll on Saturday at wind-swept, chilly Strait Field, securing their first Division II district soccer title.
“I’m not surprised. That’s the fourth or fifth time she’s done that this season,” coach Scott Forster said of Cox, who earlier broke the single-season scoring record she set as a freshman.
“She’s an amazing forward, and it wouldn’t have been surprising if she scored even more,” senior Chloe Kent said.
Cox credited her teammates with getting her in position to use her many skills.
“They control the middle, get the ball out and in, and I just make my way up and do my thing,” she said. “It’s just awesome to be a part of this.”
Granville (16-2-1), third ranked in the state, advanced to play Bexley at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a regional semifinal at Zanesville’s John D. Sulsberger Memorial Stadium. The Blue Lions knocked out the Blue Aces’ nemesis, DeSales, 2-0. The Stallions had beaten Granville 1-0 in the previous two district finals.
Despite Cox’s outburst, this still was a team effort by the Blue Aces, especially defensively. Granville outshot the previously unbeaten Bulldogs 14-4 by controlling the midfield and keeping the ball in Bloom-Carroll’s end most of the game.
“We had a good scouting report coming in, and we scrimmaged them in the preseason,” Forster said. “We pretty much knew what they were going to do, and it was just a matter of executing the game plan.
“They were a long ball team, and our back line did a lot of work to not let them get behind us.”
“We’ve had a pretty strong defense all year, but we had to be careful not to let them go up, back and through,” Kent said.
The Blue Aces had the wind in the first half and took advantage. Tori Long’s booming goal kick turned into an assist as Cox chased the ball down and scored at the 23:48 mark. She then scored at 16:21 by using her left foot after the goalie came out of the net for a 2-0 halftime lead as Riley Rosinski assisted.
“We pressured them up top a lot. We couldn’t let them serve the long ball,” Rosinski said. “We wanted to keep the ball in our hands. We all work together and we all can score.”
Cox turned Allison Brunn’s corner kick into a third goal with 28:14 left when she barely got a piece of the ball on a header and it trickled past the goalkeeper and defender. Her final goal with 18:25 left, on another Rosinski assist, was a straight-on blast.
“Cox is a special player,” said Bulldog coach Mark Casperson, whose team finished a 14-1-4 season and reached their first district final. “We had a plan to shut her down but because of her movement without the ball, it didn’t work. She still found a way to score, even dropping into the midfield up top.”
Freshman Sienna Henne scored for Bloom-Carroll with 15:35 left when she deftly popped a shot just over Long. The Bulldogs lost all-time leading scorer Alexis McKenzie in the first half with a head injury.
“It’s really exciting, to finally get the monkey off our back,” Forster said. “We’ve been talking about this a lot. But they also know this is not ultimately where we want to be.”