Hoover fences in Canfield to upset unbeaten Cards




Visiting North Canton Hoover did the unthinkable in a 2-1 upset win over previously unbeaten Canfield in a Division I girls district semifinal Tuesday night at Bob Dove Field.

The Cardinals (16-1-1), ranked No. 9 in the state in the final coaches poll, never settled into an offensive groove against Hoover’s stout back line featuring as many as eight defenders.

Following a scoreless first half, the game turned in Hoover’s favor when the underdogs scored twice in the final 21 minutes and then held off a late Canfield rally as senior co-captain and University of Toledo-bound Anita Mancini scored her 35th goal of the season and No. 85 in her career with just over three minutes remaining.

The Cardinals, however, despite pressuring Hoover’s defense relentlessly in a frantic attempt to tie, couldn’t dial up the equalizer.

“Soccer’s a cruel sport sometimes,” Canfield coach Phil Simone said as several of his players collapsed around him in disappointment. “You can control a lot of the game, and lose.

“I thought the momentum shifted a couple times. We were on our heels a little bit the first part of the game and gained momentum. We started attacking. Things were looking good. We had our opportinities. We just didn’t put them away.”

Hoover’s best chance to topple the Cardinals was to repeat a strategy from when the teams met Sept. 12 in a game that Canfield won by a 1-0 score.

The decision to erect a picket fence around Mancini wasn’t a surprise, However, the Cardinals were unable to take advantage of other scoring options, of which there were several on a high-scoring team featuring 11 different players with at least one goal.

“They just kind of packed the back. We couldn’t find [Mancini] a ton,” Simone said. “Our touches were not what they should be. We were giving away a lot of touch passes as opposed to settling. They beat us to a lot of 50-50 balls. Sometimes that 50-50 ball battle is the difference in the game.”

Hoover coach Brian Girdlestone said his players remembered last year’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Cardinals in the district semifinals. He became nervous when Mancini scored late in this year’s district semifinals with time still on the clock.

“We learned from last year,” said Girdlestone, whose team improves to 11-6-1 entering Saturday’s district final. “We got beat by them in overtime in the last two minutes. I was thinking, `Don’t let it happen again.’ “

As they did all year, the Cardinals once again entered a game facing the inevitable pressure that accompanies a team chasing an undefeated season.

“The pressure’s definitely there. We knew they would be coming after us,” said Simone, who told his players to focus on the positives from their eight-member senior class that went 62-11-5 in four years with two district titles and one district runner-up finish while advancing to the regional final and regional semifinals in back-to-back years.

“Hopefully when everything settles down, the girls will realize what they’ve accomplished and they don’t take this one game defining their legacy here,” Simone said.