Riccardo’s goal sparks Beavers

Beaver Local girls soccer claims district crown in overtime thriller

Jenna Riccardo (center) celebrates her game-winning goal against River View with teammates on Thursday at Carrollton High School. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

Jenna Riccardo (center) celebrates her game-winning goal against River View with teammates on Thursday at Carrollton High School. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

CARROLLTON — With 6:29 remaining in overtime of Thursday night’s Div. II district final, Beaver Local had the ball on its side.

Kierra Taylor set up a free kick opportunity on the left side of the net. Head coach Elizabeth Connor yelled to her “Play it like a corner.” Freshman Jenna Riccardo, who normally plays back, looked over and heard Connor scream “Get it in!”

“I took a couple of shots before that, and I wasn’t really out for aim. I said to myself that I think there would be a better chance for us to finish off of a free kick without me shooting so we can knock it in,” Taylor said.

The junior captain did just that.

With the ball tailing near the right back post, Riccardo used her height advantage and just got enough of the ball off her head to squeak by River View goalkeeper Danielle Muhleman. The Beavers won 1-0 for their first district championship since 2002.

“During that last stretch, I asked Jenna to go up front,” Connor said. “She’s a big presence, obviously, with her height. She’s been taller than me since she was 9 years old. She went in and was able to find the end of it there.”

Beaver improves to 13-3-2 and will face Tri-Valley in a regional semifinal at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Dover.

Riccardo’s goal was her fifth this season and biggest by far. She knew the ball may come her way and Taylor would be the one kicking it in the right spot.

“Usually we try to play it towards the back post,” Riccardo said. “Whoever is there just crashes it. That time it happened to be me. Kierra always has really good balls to the back side. I was just trying to finish off one of them, and I was able to get just enough of my head on it.”

The final score proved it was a moment waiting to happen. The Beavers hardly let a ball reach slip past midfield. The problem was getting it in the net. Muhleman made many great saves, including a few against Taylor.

River View was aggressive early on. Beaver struggled to do much in the first half as the momentum swung back and forth.

“I think the first 20 minutes was due to nerves,” Connor said. “Coming in we knew Beaver Local has not been winners for a long time, so we were trying to bring a district title back to Beaver Local. We just needed to play our game, and I just kept stressing that over halftime.”

A big uplift for the Beavers came with 18:20 left in the first half. River View found the back of the net and would have taken a 1-0 lead. However, Claire Warschaver got too aggressive and ran into Beaver goalkeeper Jackie Francis. Warschaver was called for a foul.

“Jackie came out and was fouled that earned us a direct kick out,” Connor said. “Once the clock stops, she has to come out for the injury. She was able to get some treatments, come back in and finish strong. Courtney Elliott stepped up big. Even though she was only in there for a few minutes, she went out there and did the job that was needed to win.”

It was all Beaver from that point on. Despite the struggles in their first district final since 2012, the Beavers would not trade it for anything. Even on a team with plenty of juniors and seniors, it was the freshmen that got it done.

“With Jenna and some of the other younger girls, I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow up and play club ball,” Connor said. “They’ve really gelled as a team, especially with some of the older ones. They continue to build my trust every single game.”

Riccardo is experienced when it comes to club soccer. Those experiences traveling helped result into minutes at the varsity level. Weight lifting and strengthening also prepared her for what was to come.

“She’s able to play up and help when need be,” Taylor said. “She’s also able to play back. She has that leg, and she’s not afraid to do anything whether it’s her head, her shoulder, whatever works to get her to the ball.”

Before the Beavers head to regional play, they celebrated with numerous team photos and cut the net. Every girl, from coaches to freshmen to seniors, received a piece a history that will not be soon forgotten.

“I guess we’re going to frame it,” Taylor said. “We just wanted to bring home a gold medal. We stepped it up, we looked to keep possession and just finish it off like we did.”

Notes:

¯ Beaver fell to Circleville 1-0 in its last regional match in 2002. The Beavers also reached the district final in 2011 and 2012.

¯ Top-seeded Tri-Valley defeated Millersburg West Holmes 3-2 on Thursday.

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