It was a bit like playing chess without the queen on the board Thursday night as the Cleveland High School Lady Raiders closed out their regular season against Grace Baptist Academy at home without leading goal scorer Samantha DeBien.
Despite being shorthanded, Cleveland played a solid match at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex and utilized its signature defensive style to walk away with a scoreless tie against a 7-7-3 Golden Eagles crew.
“We came out against a good side tonight. I have a ton of respect for their coach, Gretchen Hammel. Hats off to them to come up here on our senior night. They’re trying to prepare for the postseason just like we are. It would have been great to win, but that’s not really the prime objective at this point,” stated Cleveland head coach Andy Byrd.
“We wanted tonight to be about sharpening the saw so we can go to work Saturday at Bradley. Our goal scorer is hurt. So, we had to make some creative moves tonight and I think it forced us to try some new things attacking.”
On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore Sohara Perez and juniors Hope Haas and Lorne Conn did all they could to put Cleveland on the board. The three combined for 13 shots, 10 of which were on goal.
Defensively, the Lady Raiders held Grace Baptist to just eight shots on goal, all of which were gobbled up with little trouble by keeper Jenna Scoggins.
“Offense wins games. Defense wins championships,” intoned Byrd.
“Alex Hutt, Jenna, Sarah Crump, Calli Baker and Kendall Hamilton all had an outstanding match for us tonight in the back and midfields.”
Seniors Hutt and Betsie Hobbs were honored at halftime by the team.
Now, with the regular season behind them, the Lady Raiders can set their sights on a very important and much anticipated rematch against their Bradly Central Bearette rivals.
Their first meeting this season was a stunner when the two teams battled into District 5-AAA’s first ever golden goal extra period. Just minutes into the sudden death overtime, Bradley senior Alexia Hubbard found the back of the Lady Raider net for a thrilling Bearette victory.
“I’d love to say that it’s going to be an easy match and say we are going to go in there and have a blast and score five goals, but I guarantee that isn’t going to happen. This match is going to be a battle from the get-go. When the whistle blows, Tiffany (Walker) is going to have her kids ready to play. Fortunately, I’m going to have mine ready to go as well,” Byrd stated.