MEDINA — Brunswick goalkeeper Erin Calhoun stands about 5-foot-3, but the junior played much bigger than that Saturday night.
Facing a barrage of shots from Medina, Calhoun and the Blue Devils made an early goal stand up with a strong defensive performance en route to beating the state-ranked Bees 1-0 at Medina Memorial Stadium.
The plucky Calhoun snagged crosses and shots out of mid-air and dove like she was 6-5 in helping Brunswick (5-1-1) beat its intracounty rival for the first time since 1997.
“It’s a really great feeling to beat someone that everyone says you can’t and you’re not expected to win,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to say, ‘Yeah, we did win.’ Now we have the confidence that we can beat anyone.”
Calhoun’s 12 saves were the difference, but a combined defensive effort was needed to stun Medina (3-1-2), which was ranked sixth in the Division I state poll and 40th in the FAB 50 national rankings. Players like freshman defender Heather Craska thwarted a handful of runs by the Bees, along with a strong midfield defensive performance led by center mid Macey Juguilon that kept the team organized during counterattacks.
With a one-goal lead for three-quarters of the game, Brunswick needed every bit of that defense to come away with the result.
“They played as a team throughout,” Blue Devils coach Scott Ward said. “It was not perfect, but we don’t need to be perfect. We caught a team that had a little bit of any off-night and we played hard, so it worked out. I’m proud of their effort.”
Medina came out in the second half and uncorked eight shot attempts — three coming in the first five minutes — that were stopped or batted away by Calhoun.
The closing minutes saw a pair of restarts in the offensive third after Amy Bobonik created dangerous situations in the box. The last try came with 2:40 left, as Bobonik drew a foul on the right side, resulting in an indirect kick that was saved out of the air by Calhoun.
“Little nervous and a little scary,” Calhoun said of the second half. “You just have to keep your head up. You have to trust in your team and believe that you and your team can do it.”
Out of the Bees’ 13 total shots, 12 were on goal by eight different players, but outside of an early Nicole Bennett shot that was smothered by Calhoun and a Lauren Rafie attempt that deflected off of a Brunswick defender that Calhoun dove to stop, they failed to convert.
“The bottom line is I have to do a better job as coach of this team,” Medina coach Doug Coreno said. “We have not played well since the preseason. We’re very inconsistent. Our team play isn’t there and we’re not dangerous at all in the offensive third.
“Credit to Brunswick. They’re a talented team and they came in ready to play,” he continued. “You could see it from the opening kickoff when they were down in our end 30 seconds into the match taking a shot. Those kids wanted the game tonight and it showed.”
Little did the Blue Devils know that it was a goal just 9 minutes into the game would be enough.
With 30:56 left in the opening half, Sam Malleo pushed the ball ahead to the left side of the box to a streaking Nikki Shotzbarger, who connected on her only shot try of the night and found the right corner past goalkeeper Jordan Reynolds (1 save).
“When I scored that, it was like a weight was lifted off,” Shotzbarger said. “When Sam trapped it, she’s either going to shoot it or try and cross it over, so I just going to get up by the goalie just in case it bounces off her. It went straight to me and I just hit it in.”
It was a complete victory that Brunswick has been looking for after a disappointing tie with Normandy earlier in the week and the start of Northeast Ohio Conference River Division play looming Wednesday.
While Ward was pleased with his squad’s effort, he knows this is just one step in a long season with plenty more goals left to accomplish.
“We played very hard and I know we very much wanted to win after tying Normandy,” Ward said. “We need to take this and keep working hard and know that this is the quality win that we need.”
Maddie Sabetta, Ally Villeneuve and Ali Martin scored as Medina’s junior varsity team beat Brunswick 3-0. Jessica Radice and Sophie Weidner combined for the clean sheet in goal.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.