Pancake’s goal advances Beavers
DOVER — With scorers such as Kierra Taylor and Alexa Schwerha on Beaver Local’s roster, it’s easy for others to be overshadowed.
An assist here and a great pass there compliment goals, but the scorer is generally the hero. Sophomore Leah Pancake is one of the players whose contributions can go unnoticed by those not on the field.
But there was something in Pancake’s game Tuesday night in a Div. II regional semifinal against top-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley that head coach Elizabeth Connor knew would lift the Beavers to the promise land.
“I told Leah at half that I knew she was going to get one,” Connor said.
Driving deep into Tri-Valley’s territory with seconds remaining, Riley Britt set up a great scoring opportunity. Pancake slipped by defenders, stuck her foot out and scored in the back corner of the net with 29 seconds left in the game. Beaver won 3-2 and will face Granville in the regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday at Zanesville High School.
“I can’t even explain (the feeling). My heart just dropped because I knew I just won it for my team,” Pancake said.
The Beavers (14-3-2) had to buckle down because the Scotties quickly went downfield. Beaver locked down defensively and later celebrated its victory.
Although Pancake’s game-winner and Schwerha’s two goals were the difference, it was Beaver’s defense that ultimately led the way.
“All the credit in the world goes to our offense for scoring three goals, but the defense stepped up and did their job,” Connor said. “We always talk about how defense wins championships. They kept Tri-Valley’s main threats off the board.”
Junior Lexie Hilliard stepped up defensively. Beaver knew how to keep Tri-Valley’s offense in check.
“Our goal was to stop (Chloe Williams) and (Kenna Stones) from playing the ball,” Hilliard said. “I think we were able to that very well. We just stayed on them the whole game and got in their heads.”
The Beavers’ biggest hiccup came in the first half. Tri-Valley freshman Karsen Ross scored the game’s lone goal in the first half with 28:31 remaining, giving the Scotties a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“At halftime we just got together so we could regroup,” Schwerha said. “We wanted to stay united as a team. We didn’t want to separate and play by ourselves.”
Schwerha connected on her 66th career goal with 36:01 left in the game to tie the game. Speaking of playing as a unit, Schwerha’s score came on a penalty kick set up by Pancake.
“You want to keep it low on penalty kicks and go for the corner. That’s basically what I did,” Schwerha said. “We also knew that she’s (Kira Hindel) not really good in the air, so we had to keep it low. As long as you stay calm, your fine.”
That was not all from Schwerha. She later scored her 67th career goal by splitting two defenders to give the Beavers a 2-1 advantage with 24:57 remaining. Emily Monte assisted the goal.
“It was a great bump from Emily. I just happened to be in the right channel, and the ball just slipped right through,” Schwerha said.
Beaver kept its one goal advantage up until the 3:46 mark. Aliza Bonifield converted a game-tying goal on a penalty kick that fooled goalkeeper Jackie Francis, something that has not happened during Beaver’s tournament run.
The game could have easily went into overtime, but the Beavers knew better.
“We knew that we had to play direct. I think we had the better end of the ball during the second half,” Connor said. “We know the game is not over until the clock strikes zero. It’s happened to us a few times this year. We were able to finish it off this time.”
With a few days to spare, all the Beavers can do until Saturday is prepare for the team that defeated Tri-Valley in the regional championship a season ago.
“It’s our next big step. This team has all of the momentum going in,” Connor said. “They are very much a team that can argue and bicker, but when we step out onto the field, we play as one.”
¯ Granville, ranked seventh in the Div. II coaches poll, defeated Fairfield Union 1-0 on Tuesday. Granville (12-6-2) has outscored its four tournament opponents 16-0.
¯ Beaver and Tri-Valley are not unfamiliar foes. The two teams faced one another earlier during Beaver Local’s preseason showcase.
“We played well with them that day, and I knew that if we came out and played our hardest that it would be our game,” Pancake said.
¯ The Beavers played on a grass surface for the first time since defeating East Liverpool at home in a sectional final. Connor mentioned during the district tournament that there is not much difference with a turf surface. The Beavers, though, enjoyed playing on grass again.
“It slowed the game down a little for us,” Connor said. “We’re typically used to playing on grass, but we didn’t know the conditions of the field coming in. We had a good warm up before the game, and that really helped.”