By BRANDON SHRIDER
MOUNT BLANCHARD — Riverdale had three goals coming into the year.
Check the first one off the list.
“We have three goals we wanted to achieve, and that’s our mentality going into practice. Goal one was to get to Findlay, we’re there,” Riverdale coach Andrew Snook said as his team topped Cory-Rawson 5-0 on Saturday.
Riverdale advances to a Division III district semifinal, at Findlay High School, against fellow North Central Ohio Soccer Association school Bluffton.
The Falcons won the first meeting 2-0 in the first week of September, and can check their second goal off by beating Bluffton again and advancing to the district final.
Riverdale’s five-goal advantage hardly came easy.
It wasn’t until the 12-minute mark that Gabi Rodriguez was able to gather a ricochet off the right post from a dangerous Reygan Frey shot and put the Falcons (11-4-2) up 1-0. But they dominated possession in the first half, but struggled to finish exploiting the Hornets’ (9-7-2) defense.
So the talk at halftime was about urgency, not tactics.
Six minutes later, a Sydney Holderman goal gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead and a firm hold of momentum.
“Coach (Snook) talked about how they’re (Cory-Rawson) going to come in with the mentality that they can still come up on us and get a goal right off the bat,” Holderman said of the halftime talk.
“Do what we always do. Go into challenges hard. Gotta win the ball from them first, have to go in hard in case they slip up, you have to get a head on the ball, or a foot, whatever you need to get that ball in the net.”
Less than four minutes into the half, Riverdale worked the ball up the field and into the box where Holderman — which she had been doing most of the first half as well — was charging forward. A pass found her foot in the middle of the box and she slammed it high and hard in the center of the goal to go up two goals.
Two minutes later and a similar chance began to take shape, this time setup by Haley Beltz on the outside, dribbling up in the final third before dropping a near-perfect cross directly on the head of Holderman, which she headed in for a 3-0 lead.
“We didn’t really change anything up with our style of play, it was just with our opportunities, with our chances, having more urgency,” Snook said.
“For the most part we controlled the whole first half with possession but it was still a 1-nill game. So it was playing with urgency, putting the game out of reach, capitalizing on the chances. The girls focusing more with their effort … I think we had two goals within the first six minutes of the second half. And both those goals were beautiful, build-up play, the combination play on the first one was great, the second one with Beltz putting the ball on Sydney’s head. They just came out and executed perfectly at the start of the second half.”
Cory-Rawson didn’t help itself with lackadaisical defense.
“Our man-marking was less than stellar tonight. And that’s not just our back line, it worked its way through the entire 11 on the field. And that’s what did us in,” Hornets coach Mark Schwemer said.
“Riverdale does a nice job of moving the ball around, both combinations and with speed. We work with the girls that you need to stay with your mark and stay by their side and if you don’t do it then teams like this will pick you apart. Riverdale finally figured it out toward the early part of the second half and made us pay.”
Cory-Rawson was coming off of a 10-0 dominating win over winless Galion in which possession was hardly an issue and passing combinations came easy. Riverdale’s speed and relentlessness stymied any attempt to replicate that performance.
“It was surprising that it seemed like we weren’t expecting them to come at us with that kind of speed. It might have been a little bit of a hangover from playing Galion, a team that doesn’t press and doesn’t play with as much speed, so to turn around and play a team that has that much speed, it takes you a while to get your feet under you,” Schwemer said.
“That’s what we wanted to do defensively,” Snook said.
“They have some speed and skill in two offensive spots so we knew if we lost the ball, we couldn’t let them capitalize on it. Taking care of the ball when we did lose it, eliminating their counterattack possibilities, that was our main focus.”
Gabi Rodriguez with 18 minutes left in the second half after Cory-Rawson failed to clear a ball in the box, let it bobble around on a couple of feet, before Rodriguez found it and booted it past Hannah Bixler. Brandi Borkosky added a goal in the final 15 minutes.
Bixler made 11 saves for the Hornets including a diving catch save late in the first half to keep it a one-goal game. Katy Miller saved both of C-R’s two shots on goal.
goals: (Riv) Sydney Holderman & Gabi Rodriguez 2, Brandi Borkosky. Assists: (Riv) Haley Beltz, Reygan Frey & Rodriguez. shots-on-goal: Cory-Rawson 2, Riverdale 16. saves: (C-R) Hannah Bixler 11, (Riv) Katy Miller 2.
records: Cory-Rawson 9-7-2, Riverdale 11-4-2.
By BRANDON SHRIDER