COLUMBUS, Ohio (Nov. 10, 2023) -- Rocky River's tremendous fall campaign ended with a 1-0 loss to the Silver Knights of Cincinnati Summit Country Day School in what was a hard-fought grind in the DII Ohio Championship Game Friday. [Box
The Pirates -- winners of 23 consecutive games heading in -- were held without a goal for just the second time in their last 37 games. Summit's lone goal of the contest came on a havoc play in front of the Pirate goal in the 38th minute. The result of a corner kick taken by the Knights' Avery Smythe, the goal was credited to Zoe Jackson on an assist from Smythe. The play might have been more accurately assigned as an own goal: Jackson nodded the ball toward a cage-front River defender who appeared to attempt a clearing boot that made its way under the crossbar.
However assigned, that's just bookkeeping. It was a well-placed corner finding a teammate in a high-danger scoring area. And it happened in a game controlled by both defenses in which quality looks were few and far between. Rocky River had six corners to Summit's five. Shots were credited as River taking 11 and Summit nine, but that appears to have discounted a few blocked shots by both sides. The Knights edged the Pirates 4-3 in the shots-on-goal tally.
Long stretches of the Buckeye State title match were played out over the middle 60 yards of the playing surface at Historic Crew Stadium. Pirate defenders Charlotte Dean, Lexi Hammermeister, Addie Russell, and Rori Vesy were sharp, as were their counterparts in Summit uniforms some 80 yards across the field. Plays near the penalty area were expertly parried away. Sideline runs were squashed before attacks developed.
The Checkered Buccaneers -- owners of a 6.61 goals-per-game scoring average heading into Friday -- did muster two standout scoring opportunities in the second half. In the 56th minute, a Mackenzie Russell header off a Hammermeister corner kick banged off the crossbar. In the 77th minute, Sophia Sindelar had partial control of the ball near the right goal post. The potential play had support, but it was handled -- like everything else in the game -- by a talented and smothering Summit (20-1-3) defense.
Sindelar had been like a twine-finding genie all season, granting Rocky River wishes in the form of goals. Sometimes four a night and totaling program-record 59 for the year. On Friday in Columbus, the Silver Knights bottled that genie. Summit, uniformed in all-white, seemingly blanketed River's attacking zone time and time again throughout the afternoon. On a 60-degree day and under brilliant sunny skies, the Pirate offense may well have felt it was playing in three inches of snow.
It was a talented roster culled from many communities in and around Cincinnati that doused the Pirate offense and dashed River's hopes of bringing championship hardware back to the trophy case at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit. But Friday was still a day in the sun this River team deserved.
It was earned in spring leagues and summer clinics. Earned in August training and in a march through a challenging non-conference campaign. Earned in brilliant style when the Maroon & White bested all comers to win the Great Lakes Conference West Division, the program's 10th conference title. And earned in a playoff run that couldn't be contained by the month of October.And it all earned our admiration and respect.
In a word -- and one rightly minted just for this team -- this Rocky River soccer team was Rremarkable.
by Skip Snow