WESTFIELD TWP. — The Wadsworth girls soccer team knew Cloverleaf was going to bring a little extra motivation Wednesday night at Gene Clark Stadium.
After the Grizzlies posted a 14-goal victory on the rival Colts a year ago, nothing less could be expected.
With that in the back of both teams’ minds, Wadsworth took care of business en route to a convincing 4-0 Suburban League win.
“My biggest thing was letting them know not to be complacent when we come out and handle business from the get-go, because they’ve got something to prove,” Grizzlies coach Paul Williford said. “I thought for the most part, we did that. We took a little bit of sting out of them and kept the pressure on the whole game.”
Wadsworth (3-0, 1-0) did that from the start with All-Gazette forward Leah Runkle and midfielder Brooke Braman bringing the attack to the Colts (2-1, 0-1).
Runkle was able to break through the backline midway through the first half, when the senior took a feed from Braman and connected on the first of three goals. The hat trick gave Runkle five goals in two days.
“I was just happy to get going,” the Bowling Green State recruit said. “To get the season going and get the team where it needs to be and where I personally feel I should be, it’s just nice to get going for my senior year.”
Runkle kept those good feelings going with 11:48 left, when Sarah Berger found her inside off a direct kick from the top of the box. With the Colts building a wall, Berger pushed a pass through traffic to Runkle, who dribbled it twice before netting her second goal.
Runkle’s final goal came late in the second half with the game already decided.
“Especially when most teams know about her, for her to still be getting goals is great,” Williford said. “This year, we’re looking at other people to contribute as well, and she’s actually putting some assists in and helping us all around.”
A little more than a minute after Runkle’s second goal, outside midfielder Courtney Palange, fresh off a two-goal, two-assist game the night before, crushed a shot that hit the crossbar. It bounced straight down before spinning into the net to make it 3-0 just 30 minutes in.
It took the wind out of the sails of a Cloverleaf team that started five freshmen and a sophomore.
“The girls played their hearts out. It was an emotional game for them,” Colts coach Guillermo Porras said. “They knew what they were going up against, and it was a mental lapse on our part. That’s all it takes.”
For the game, the Grizzlies had 17 shots to Cloverleaf’s five and held a 9-2 advantage in attempts on goal.
The Colts moved All-Gazette midfielder Lauren Gokey around the field for most of the first half to provide help where needed, which led to a couple of runs but limited shot attempts.
A lot of that had to do with the constant pressure applied by a Wadsworth backline anchored by Berger. The athletic senior, who was joined for most of the night by fellow 12th-grader Erica Hantzche and underclassmen Julia Horton and Mikaela Flath, made things difficult for Cloverleaf’s young strikers and easy for second-year goalkeeper Hannah Centea.
“They’re the core of our team,” Williford said. “We’ve got a couple of younger ones out there that are definitely stepping up and contributing, and then the seniors just take the lead and they follow. They’re doing a good job.”
Cloverleaf freshman Katelyn Young stopped six shots, one coming on an impressive dive to her left late in the second half.
While the Colts didn’t earn their third straight victory, they did earn the respect of their county foe.
“They’re very good and we knew that,” Runkle said. “We knew that we couldn’t just come into this and win. We had to work hard and stay focused.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.