by BRYAN EVERSON
An early goal from Nicole Eichberger and a pair of insurance goals late in the second half guided Stoney Creek to a 3-0 home victory Monday night over Birmingham Groves.
Eichberger put the Cougars (10-2-1) on the board within the first five minutes thanks to some service in the midfield from teammate Lindsey Schupbach.
“We’ve been working on trying to build up and connect early on with the players,” Stoney Creek coach Bryan Mittelstadt said. “All these things are about connecting and movement with the ball. They did a nice job building up from the back forward and scored a nice goal. Lindsey has that dribbling ability [but] she kind of sits back. I’ve been kind of getting on her a little bit to take that opportunity, and you can see she used her skill up the middle and connected with Eichberger to split [the defense] and get a goal.”
Junior Zoe Pritchard, one of several recent call-ups to the varsity level, came close to delivering Stoney’s second 23 minutes in when she went at full speed and nearly found herself 1-on-1 with the Groves goalkeeper but was barely denied by the Falcons’ right back.
The Cougars continued to make Groves uncomfortable by holding roughly two-thirds of possession, and had several more chances before the break, including a ball played by Amelia Kuntzman to Truly Hoenig that resulted in a shot from inside 15 yards pulled just wide-left of the near post, and a darty run by Eichberger up the left flank capped off by a nice touch to work around the defender allowed her to get off a low, bouncing corner that almost found a Stoney attacker at the far post in the final three minutes. Emma Lanlungo and Nicole Leon also worked a nice give-and-go sequence that culminated in forcing a near-post save in the final 90 seconds.
The threatening attacks persisted in a second half that became increasingly chippy. The Cougars again came close to scoring, this time through Hoenig, who was the beneficiary of a scrum for the ball and struck the ball off the crossbar from 10 yards out.
Freshman Izzy Paradoski provided the assist as Stoney finally broke through for its second goal with under 20 minutes to play, allowing senior Lauryn Beccari to release a shot that skipped into the right corner from just a couple yards inside the penalty box.
Another recent call-up, freshman forward Morgan Carolan, paved the way to the third goal when she was working on the ball and brought down in the penalty area from 13 yards out, and senior Emily Solek made sure the opportunity didn’t go to waste, curving the spot kick inside the right post with 13:54 left.
Mittelstadt indicated he likes what the recent promotions have contributed to the varsity squad.
“The JV team has been playing pretty well, and they have such pace to their game,” he said. “We started the season with a tighter bench, and now we’re getting where we want, bringing some players up and giving them an opportunity. I really think they’ve worked hard and they’ve helped us.”
He was also complimentary of the play of Paradoski, who provided several crosses into dangerous areas from out wide. “She’s just a young player who works hard and has gotten better as the season goes on,” Mittelstadt said. “We talk about being the first one to the ball, winning it, and using the width of the field to our advantage, and she did an awesome job tonight of that.”
Senior Gina Cerny, normally between the posts for Stoney, played in the field again due to a broken hand suffered several matches ago, and nearly scored with a right-footed volley from 12 yards distance with three minutes until final time.
Unfortunately, the victory was lessened a bit for the Cougars when Leon, a junior, needed to be helped off the field in the final minute due to a left ankle injury that looked to be potentially severe.
“We’ve got a lot of kids who work hard,” Mittelstadt said. “It’s kind of a tough situation when you see one of them get hurt.”
In related news, Stoney Creek announced that Jed Kramer will be taking over as its wrestling coach for the following winter season. Kramer, who also serves as head coach for the school’s boys and girls cross country teams, was a standout wrestler at Michigan State, where he competed as a 134-pounder and represented the Spartans at the NCAA Tournament in 1995 and 1996. He had also been coaching wrestling at Hart Middle School.