BRUNSWICK — The Wadsworth girls soccer team knows what lies ahead, but for now the Grizzlies will party like it’s 2011.
Third-seeded Wadsworth played second-seeded Brunswick to a 2-2 stalemate Monday in an Akron Division I District semifinal and then knocked the Blue Devils out 4-2 in penalty kicks.
The Grizzlies’ reward is a district final Thursday with top-seeded Medina at a to-be-determined site.
It will be the first time in seven seasons Wadsworth (11-3-4) will play in a district final.
“It’s so exciting, especially knowing that 2011 team,” Grizzlies keeper Jordan Barnhart said of the 2011 squad that reached the regional finals. “This is the furthest I’ve made it in the tournament and I’ve had four years here. It’s just pure excitement going forward. We know we’re capable of winning these games. It’s just whether or not we do.”
Wadsworth got the chance to move on thanks to the steely resolve of Kendall Kraft. With the Grizzlies holding a one-goal advantage in penalty kicks, the senior midfielder knew if she scored, the contest would end right there and the Grizzlies could celebrate.
Kraft walked up to the ball, drilled it in the right corner and then ran into the arms of her teammates.
“We practiced PKs a couple of times and they always put me last because they know I don’t feel pressure or any nerves,” Kraft said. “I knew (Barnhart) was going to get one stop, but two was really amazing. When our fourth girl missed, I knew I had to make it. It wasn’t an option to miss.
“Honestly, I put the ball down and I don’t look at the keeper because that just scares me. I thought the ball was going a little slow, but I saw it going in and not wide. My heart just dropped and then I heard my whole team screaming.”
That roar was pretty much a constant the entire penalty kick session because the Grizzlies knew Brunswick (10-3-5) was facing a four-year starter in Barnhart, who has been in pressure situations before.
After Wadsworth’s Elizabeth Talabac opened the PK session with a goal, Barnhart was there to stop a shot from Mariah Kimble.
Teddi Farson made it a two-goal advantage in the extra session and Barnhart made it stick with a diving save on a shot to the right by Alexa Mackey.
“She’s a rock-solid keeper when it comes to penalty kicks,” Grizzlies coach Paul Williford said. “The way she’s played for us, building from her freshman year to now, there’s not a situation that she can’t handle. She’s come through time and time again and penalty kicks is just another one. We haven’t had a keeper of her caliber since before I was a coach here. She has just stepped up for us huge.”
After Barnhart’s saves, Taylor Leatherman scored to make it a three-goal advantage, making the one miss Wadsworth had in penalty kicks inconsequential.
Next up is a game with the Bees, who are ranked fifth in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com and first in the state coaches poll. Medina has reached the district final seven seasons in a row and beat Wadsworth 6-0 on Sept. 8 this season.
“It means the world,” Talabac said. “I think we can go so far with this team, with this chemistry, with these girls, with this group.”
Before penalty kicks, both team played inspired.
Morgan Dotlich scored 62 seconds into regulation to give Wadsworth an early lead, but Gigi Ricciardi answered with 12:22 remaining before intermission.
Caylee Jozefov gave the Blue Devils a one-goal lead with 28:15 remaining in the second half on a corner kick from Ricciardi. The lead lasted exactly 45 seconds before Talabac notched the equalizer.
“Their goalie kept them in the game,” Brunswick coach Scott Ward said. “Even when we had good shots, she was able to get it. You have to give it to them”
Wadsworth 2, Brunswick
Akron Division I District Semifinal
(Wadsworth wins 4-2 on penalty kicks)
WADSWORTH 1 1 — 2
BRUNSWICK 1 1 — 2
W — Morgan Dotlich (Teddi Farson), 38:58.
B — Gigi Ricciardi, 12:22.
B — Caylee Jozefov (Ricciardi), 28:15.
W — Elizabeth Talabac, 27:30.
Shotsongoal — Wadsworth 10, Brunswick 11. Cornerkicks — Wadsworth 3, Brunswick 7. Saves — Jordan Barnhart (W) 8, Sammy Grabowski (B) 8. Records — Wadsworth (11-3-4), Brunswick (10-3-5).