The Birds visited Summit last evening to take on Ohio's Division II defending state champs (after having won 3 Division III titles in a row). The Birds came in off the back of two tough games in 4 days, while Summit came in down two starters and 2 additional rotation players.
The Birds pressing won the first half, and ultimately the game for the Birds. Playing with a new starting XI (one that I expect to see the rest of the year), the Birds completely flipped the switch from Saturday. They won almost every 50/50 ball and header, keeping the ball in their offensive half for the vast majority of the first half. This pressure paid off just six minutes into the game as Elijah Stevie played a long diagonal from his center back position towards Max Farris. Farris outpaced Summit's right back cut inside and chipped the on coming goalie to give the Birds a 1-0 lead.
It was more of the same for the next 10 or so as the Silver Knights kept trying to push their attack down the left sideline. Ford Orem was repeatedly up to the task with timely step ins. Sophomore Cole Lorenzen, making his first Varsity start, was hugely influential as well. In fact, it was Cole beating a Silver Knight in the air that brought the games first yellow.
Offensively, the Birds kept testing Summit's young backs with long diagonals. Again Farris beat his defender, this time taking it to the endline and cutting into the box where he was taken down, like four yards into the box. The ref gave the free kick at the edge of the box, though he never motioned for advantage? Guessing he was saving his bacon, instead of making the killer call. The ensuing free kick was cleared, but the ref wouldn't miss the next one. On a long throw, Caymon Stevie was tackled in the box and the penalty was given. Farris stepped up and buried his fifth goal of the season. Birds 2 and Summit 0.
With four to go in the half, #8 for Summit made a silly challenge to the back of a Highlands player while he was sitting on a yellow. It was a soft second, IMO, but a silly foul when you have been overly aggressive the whole half. He got das boot with the second yellow, and Summit was down to 10 for the remainder of the game.
Highlands packed it in for the second half, ceding possession, working players in, and defending as a unit. The back line was great all night. Orem, Alexander Foubert, Hank Cook, Adam Groneck, Nate Gesenhues, and Elijah Stevie contained Summit. I believe they had less than 6 shots. Stevie, Cook, and Groneck in particular did a great job of tracking Summit's #14, one of the more dangerous attackers in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Birds now complete their tough week with a trip to Trinity to play a fresh, if untested, Shamrocks' team. Saturday will be a great road trip to gauge where the Birds stand against one of the state's best 3 teams.