Warren girls get big non-region win against Grove City

GROVE CITY – The Lady Dragons capped off nearly two full weeks of away games with the most significant win of the season by beating Region 2 perennial power house Grove City 2-1.

Despite the outcome , the match didn’t start off well for Warren. Grove City was able to take advantage of a quick attack from the opening whistle and fire an uncontested shot directly into the net.

“We didn’t look at this game as a must win. We saw it as a check point for how we are progressing,” said Warren coach Jeremy Bickling. “It’s never reassuring handing over a goal that should have never happened, but they shook it off and got back to work.”

Warren didn’t allow spotting the Lady Eagles a 1-0 lead in the first minute slow them down . The Lady Dragons went to work dominating possession and trying to break the Grove City defense.

MJ Fadale and Kyleigh Wilson created some of the best chances early one – both of the Warren players combining to get good looks at the goal and firing shots that were near misses or collected by the eagle keeper.

“We were really pleased to see some of the combination play we saw today. MJ and Kyleigh were really clicking,” Bickling said. “MJ has developed into much more then just a forward this season. She is playing some dynamic soccer .”

The Lady Dragons continued to pressure the Grove City defense by maintaining possession and continually finding chances for shots. Kyra Wotorson and Mackenzie Bickling both had a couple of near misses on their opponents net.

With just under 20 minutes remaining in the first half Lexie Grubbs was able to tap in a pass from Wotorson to tie the game up at 1-1.

“That changed the complexion of the game,” noted Bickling. “We were playing well, but you can lose steam and get frustrated if you aren’t finding success in the form of goals. “

With lots of time left to play, Grove City responded with several attacks trying to regain momentum. The stingy Lady Dragon defense was able to defuse several threatening attacks and regain possession.

“Our defense is our biggest area of improvement this season,” Bickling said. “We are giving up less shots on goal, and less goals per game. “

A key player in that improvement has been Jessica Susz, who for the second time this season has also been the game changer with her ability to head in corner kicks.

“Jess helps anchor our defense and is our key target on corner kicks,” said Bickling. “You always want to see the girls trying to make a difference in the game. Jess is always a difference maker.”

With time winding down in the first half Warren was able to find the mojo they had been missing on their corner kicks. Susz was able to finish of a service from Mackenzie Bickling for the go ahead goal.

The Lady Dragons hung on to the momentum from that goal and took the 2-1 lead into the half.

“They are starting to make me sound like a broken record, but THAT was our best half of soccer we’ve played…EVER,” the coach said. “They responded to adversity. They showed they can transfer what we do in training and apply it to situations on the field. I’m not even sure they are aware just how impressive they have looked. “

Warren started the second half with possession and returned to their continued pressure on the Grove City goal. Mackenzie Bickling nearly finishing off a goal that was poked away by an outstretched defender at the last second.

With unusually high temperatures pushing 90 degrees, both teams had to contend with the extreme heat in the second half.

“We have an extremely fit team but today was a test,” coach Bickling said. “We were playing a good, experienced, physical team in mid-summer like conditions. It was a big challenge.”

Grove City put on a final push with under 15 minutes left to play.. The Lady Eagles were able to get several attacks near the Dragon goal but Warren was able to negate the threats and transition back to the attacking third of the field.

“Our defense is really making huge improvements. Both individual and unit play has raised to another level,” Bickling said.

The Lady Dragons were not content to just hunker in and defend their lead . They continued attacking the Grove City goal getting several shots on goal in the closing minutes. The relentless pressure from the Lady Dragons was evident as Grove City was forced on several occasions to defend by pushing the ball out the end line and gave Warren additional chances with several corner kicks. Neither of the turned into goals but they were effective at chewing up precious time off of the clock.

“We have enough talent and unselfish players to move personnel around to give ourselves better matchups,” Bickilng said. “That’s a huge strategic luxury. We employed that option in the second half to not only deal with what we saw on the field but to manage how we were expending energy in the heat.”

Warren returns to action on Wednesday, hosting Corry.