It didn’t take long to figure out how Tuesday’s Section 3 Class D girls’ soccer first-round game between host Cincinnatus and Belleville-Henderson was going to go.
The sixth-seeded Red Lions had two great chances stopped by goalie Sydney Hess of the No. 11 Panthers in the first minute of the game. Cincy junior forward Delaney Rutan opened the scoring 4:25 into the contest with the first of her three goals, to go along with an assist. As it turned out, it would be the only tally the hosts would need, junior goalie Kara Steacy with two saves for the shutout in a 5-0 win by the hosts in which all the scoring came in the first half.
“Lately, we’ve been getting off to slow starts,” said Red Lions coach Mike Radziwon, his team now 14-2-1 on the season. “Today we took control early, had good shots and moved the ball well to create open shots. And we struck the ball well; I can’t fault their goalie. I don’t think there are many at this level who could have stopped the shots we put in.”
The winners took 15 shots on the day to six for Belleville-Henderson, which finished the season at 9-5-2. Cincy had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks, and Hess made eight saves.
“At the beginning of the season I was trying to force things instead of letting the play come to me,” said Rutan, who now has a team-high 27 goals this season. “If you give the ball up, find someone who’s open, more than likely you’ll get it back with a better chance to score.
“We came in blind for this game, not knowing about Belleville-Henderson, and put everything out there.”
Steacy was idle for a good part of the game as the majority of the action was on the Panthers’ defense end of the field. “I just try to pay attention wherever the ball is,” she said after her 11th shutout of the season. “I give the defense a lot of credit; Gabi Gallow (junior defender) helped me out a lot. I watch which way a player’s hips are moving when they shoot so I can block shots.”
“Kara pays attention to the game,” Radziwon said. “She has good insights and offers good constructive criticism.”
Senior midfielder Kyleigh Eaton scored Cincy’s second goal 15:51 into the contest off a feed from Rutan, who in converted an assist from senior midfield r Devan Burritt with 16:50 left until halftime to make it 3-0. Burritt would up with assists on the Red Lions’ last three goals, by junior defender Miranda Wolf with 14:47 left in the first half and Rutan’s third goal with 3:15 left.
Belleville-Henderson did show improvement in the scoreless second half, when it took all but one of its shots. “Our subs got in during the second half, and we moved people around,” Radziwon said.
“Cincinnatus is a very good team with great talent, probably the best we’ve seen this season,” Panthers coach Ann Colby said. “I hope they go far. We got off the bus (after a two-hour ride) slow, but were a little bit better in the second half. We’ve got work to do. This is a young team.
“The second half was a gut check and for pride. A lot of people were working for next year. We’ve been done before and come back, so we said ‘Why not?’ There’s no give-up on this team.”
Tuesday’s win earned Cincinnatus a quarterfinal visit to third-seeded Manlius- Pebble Hill, that game tentatively set for Friday at 3 p.m. The Trojans improved to 10-3 on Tuesday by blanking No. 14 Madison 2-0.
The Red Lions won at M-PH 3-0 last season in the Class D quarterfinals as Steacy made five saves. The win improved their record to 15-2-1, the exact record this season’s Cincy team would have with a win on Friday.
“Last year’s game was tough and muddy,” Steacy said. “M-PH took good low shots. It was rainy and cold, but I think we dominated.”