CHAMPION - As a Rootstown player raced toward the goal Thursday night in the first half of the Division III, Kent District title game against Champion, she booted a shot way above the net.
The ball ricocheted off the goal post, just missing a field goal, and came back into play.
It was about the only ball that landed somewhere other than the back of the net for the Rovers.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Champion’s Amber Walker, center, uses her body to move the ball while fighting for control with Rootstown’s Amanda Savage, left, and Jordon Mizer Thursday in Champion.
Rootstown dominated the Golden Flashes, 5-0, to claim the first district title in girls' soccer in school history.
The Rovers' Maggie Durback collected three goals, and Rootstown (12-5-3) scored three times in first-half. Durbak's first score came less than 2 minutes into the game at the 38:25 mark and seemed to set the tone for what was a big night for the junior captain.
"You always want to score first in these games," Rootstown coach Ken Moss said. "Champion gave up about half a goal per game, so we knew they were solid in the back, and you just want to score early in this kind of game. It's invaluable. The girls believe that they win then."
That belief intensified about 10 minutes later when Rootstown added another goal, and it was Durbak again. The Golden Flashes (12-5-2) whiffed on a clear attempt in front of the net, and Durbak swooped in for an easy shot from about 10 yards out.
Champion, which hadn't given up more than two goals in any game this season and allowed 10 overall in 18 games, still didn't seem fazed. The Golden Flashes constantly applied pressure, and despite the lopsided score, created almost as many opportunities as Rootstown. The problem was converting them into points.
"We had some (chances)," Champion coach Dan Houle said. "The problem we have is we don't back up ourselves. We've got two girls up front, and we get the attack, but the people in the back are watching them. It takes a little time to click, I guess."
Rootstown's third goal really seemed to take some life out of Champion.
As the Rovers' Jacqueline Moss gathered a rebound from about 20 yards away, she hit a shot right at the Champion keeper Kelly Robinson. Robinson misplayed the attempt, and the ball snuck right between her legs for a 3-0 lead at the 21:37 mark.
"My goalkeeper has never ever done something like that," Houle said. "She's very good.
"But that deflated everybody."
Champion continued to press the action, but the Golden Flashes struggled to generate clear looks at the goal, mainly because of the quickness of Rootstown. The Rovers displayed a wealth of team speed, and they passed with accuracy throughout the game, especially near the goal. A few mishaps by the Champion defense and a rough night for Robinson didn't help, but Rootstown's execution and poise from start to finish was the deciding factor.
Moss said he knew before the season started that his Rovers could be a force.
"This is one of those years that I just at and said, 'If you can't do it this year, then you're not going to," Moss said. "The back line was solid, they're speed. My two center mids just get the game. Up top, we have Kaylee Consolo, who has about 23 goals after tonight, so it was the total package."
It was all on display on Thursday, especially from Durbak.
After Consolo scored on a breakaway at 19:39 to make it 4-0, Durbak recorded the first hat trick of her career. A nice pass from Consolo landed in between Durbak and Robinson, and Durbak won the race to the ball, tapping it in from 15 yards to finish the scoring. The on-point pass by Consolo and the speed of Durbak were consistent advantages for the Rovers all night.
"They were fast, and the thing that they did though is they used it very well," Houle said. "You can have speed, but if you're just running all over the place, then it does you no good. They used it very well.
"And we got flustered, and our passes were off. When you get behind, you start playing with anxiety and that can screw you up."
Rootstown plays Hawken in the Region 9 semifinal at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30.