Mooney cools off United

HANOVERTON – Despite frigid temperatures that dropped below freezing, the United girls soccer team couldn’t cool off Youngstown’s Mooney’s hot goalscorers.

Mooney’s Juliana Vazquez netted a hat trick as the second-seeded Cardinals dropped the top-seeded Golden Eagles 5-1 in the Austintown district final at United Local High School on Thursday. United finishes its season at 14-3-2.

“Tonight we played a team that was better than us,” United coach Raymond O’Flaherty said. “They deserved to win. That’s a good team and I can appreciate good soccer.”

Vazquez spearheaded a Mooney offensive attack that overwhelmed the Golden Eagles defenders. The junior midfielder and 2012 All-Ohio selection scored two second-half goals to help cement a Cardinals victory.

“We wanted to get our momentum going early so it could carry us for the rest of the game,” Vazquez said. “It was all that mentality, and it worked.”

Vazquez now has 28 goals in 19 games this season. The Cardinals are currently 12-6-1.

“Another strong game,” Mooney coach Frank Sikich said of Vazquez. “She’s just a very strong player.”

Mooney also received goals from Elizabeth Philibin and Lexy Herman.

The Cardinals used their speedy forwards to keep United’s defense and sophomore goalkeeper Michaela Sturgeon constantly working – and letting in the occasional goal.

“Our ability to possess the ball under pressure is less than their’s,” O’Flaherty said. “We’re superior to a lot of our opponents, but when you get to this level, it shows. We still have a lot of work to do.”

“I was very pleased,” Sikich said of his team’s effort. “When it’s 5-1 and you’re in a district final, you have to be pleased. Especially when you’re playing a good team like United.”

Senior Mackenzie Gatchel scored the lone goal for United. It was an emotional ending for Gatchel, who led the Golden Eagles to the first district final in her career. United lost in the district semis to Atwater Waterloo last year, 2-1.

“It was the best year I ever had,” Gatchel said of her final season. “Everyone worked hard. We got here for the first time and we played hard. Mooney is a good team. They outworked us, but we still played hard.”

Gatchel finishes the season with 22 goals and 20 assists, leading the team in both categories. United has only two seniors on its roster – Gatchel and fellow co-captain Shelby Dimovski.

“They’re more than a team to me,” Gatchel said of her teammates. “I learned so much about leadership because they all looked up to me. They’re so young and I tried to step up for them.”

Mooney moves on to the regional semifinal where they will face either Elyria Catholic or Wellington. The Cardinals dropped from Division II to III before the season. Last year, Mooney lost in their sectional opener to Poland, 3-0.

“We’re taking it one game at a time, which you have to do because it’s one-and-done,” Sikich said. “We have to stay with our gameplan, try to execute and stay focused.”