COPLEY TWP. — For those hoping the Highland girls soccer squad could rebound from a disappointment at Aurora and control the Suburban League American Conference race, those hopes were dashed when Copley recorded a 2-1 win Wednesday in a game that featured a lot of defense and rough play.
Highland (8-2, 2-2), off to its best start in history, had hoped to bounce back after the Aurora loss (2-0) last week to take over conference leadership.
“Tonight was much like the Aurora game,” Highland coach Bill Zufall said. “Against Aurora, we came out strong, outshot the opponent (11-2), but lost. Tonight was eerily similar: The effort was there but final touch and finish just wasn’t.
“Overall, we have a young team, with good senior leadership. We’ve struggled to finish, then our energy has faded. We had plenty of opportunities tonight.”
Highland outshot the Indians 8-4 and also had a 6-4 edge in corner kicks.
“I’m proud of our team,” Zufall said. “We showed a lot of fight in a one-goal loss that went down to the final seconds. We played 20 players and we keep improving.”
Zufall acknowledged his team can’t win the conference with two losses.
“Aurora and Copley (6-4-2, 3-0-1) will fight it out,” he said.
Highland, midway through a tough four-game run that will conclude with Holy Name on Saturday and Wadsworth on Monday, plus conference games against Tallmadge (Oct. 3) and Barberton (Oct. 10), will concentrate on getting ready for tournament time. Copley and Aurora, meanwhile, have a showdown scheduled for Oct. 2. Wadsworth defeated Copley 7-0 earlier this season.
Forward Bella Delfino, Highland’s leading scorer, was kicked in the knee in the final three minutes and needed a cart to exit the pitch. Zufall said he hoped the injury was not severe.
All the scoring took place in the second half, with Copley picking up unassisted goals from Grace Beck and Jillian Neal for a 2-0 lead.
Highland’s Colleen Flannery answered with just over three minutes remaining to give the Hornets hope, but Copley’s defense, spearheaded by goalie Bridget Milligan with seven saves, held the lead to the final whistle.
Copley 2, Highland 1
HIGHLAND 0 1 — 1
COPLEY 0 2 — 2
C — Grace Beck, 27:19.
C — Jill Neal 23:30
H— Colleen Flannery, 3:33.
Shots on goal — Highland 8, Copley 4. Corner kicks — Highland 6, Copley 4. Saves — Allie Mazzaro (H) 0. Bridget Milligan (C) 7. Records — Highland (8-2, 2-2), Copley (6-4-2, 3-0-1). Junior varsity — Highland 1, Copley 0.