Elyria Catholic girls soccer team poses after 2012 district championship win / Photo courtesy head coach Tony Rozanc
The Elyria Catholic High School girls soccer team achieved the first of what it hopes will be a couple of history-making milestones by the end of next week on Wednesday night. The Panthers (14-2-4) defeated the Waterloo Vikings (11-5-4) in a Division III regional semifinal tilt to become the first Lorain County girls soccer squad to earn the right to play for a regional title.
The Panthers' 4-1 victory eased the pain from the team's regional semifinal loss to Laurel School in 2011 and placed this year's young squad - which features only one senior starter - in the record books.
"We have had a great season and are hoping to be playing in the state championship next Friday," head coach Tony Rozanc said. "It has been a season of growth and building to get where we are now."
Elyria Catholic will look to continue that growth and extend its season Saturday afternoon when it plays either Hawken or Rootstown in the Division III, Region 9 championship match at Twinsburg High School.
Rozanc recently answered questions about the Panthers and their historic season for WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site (usatodayhss.com/Cleveland).
WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site: What has been your team's motto this season?
Elyria Catholic girls soccer coach Tony Rozanc: We play with the attitude that we start every game three goals down.
WKYC: What are three words that describe your team and/or its play this season?
Rozanc: Smart, hard-working, determined.
WKYC: What has been your team's greatest strength this season?
Rozanc: Team unity and chemistry. Our team has had the ability to adapt to the game situation. When we need our offense to step up, they do. When our defense is called upon to win, they are strong.
WKYC: What has been your team's greatest weakness?
Rozanc: Our weakness has been [our inability] to finish. We have an explosive offense, sometimes dominating games with 20-plus shots and only winning by one goal. If that changes, though, we will be unstoppable [through the remainder of] the playoffs.
WKYC: What has been the high point of your season thus far?
Rozanc: The district final against Wellington ended in a shootout, which we won. That gave us back-to-back district titles.
WKYC: What was the low point of your team's season? What did it learn from the experience?
Rozanc: At the beginning of the season, one of our players lost her dad to cancer. The girls came to support her through this difficult time. They all learned the value of a team and that the relationships we build through the season are always more important than wins and losses.
WKYC: Who are your team's leaders? What do they bring to the team?
Rozanc: Our team is anchored by senior Lauren Wisnor. The Walsh University recruit is our center midfielder and controls the game with her great skill and field vision. Sophomore Jenna Ellingson, our dynamic forward and main offensive threat, is our team's leading scorer. Her passing and aggressive play is always part of every goal we score. Junior McKenzie Rozanc and sophomore Kirsten Fehlan are our team's defensive center backs. McKenzie can also add to the offense with her 35-yard throws that have set up many of our goals this season. Kirsten stands at 5-foot-10 and lets nothing through in the air. Her tackling skills are also the best I've seen all season of any team we've faced. Sophomore Keely Birsic is our team's second-leading scorer with multiple goals this season from 30 yards out.
WKYC: Who has been your team's unsung hero this season?
Rozanc: Our unsung hero would have to be junior Kat Newman. She has stepped up to be a full-time starter this season on defense. She plays every minute of every game and she has shut down many opposing teams on her side. She was also one of the five penalty kick takers in the district championship shootout win.
For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit usatodayhss.com/Cleveland.