TALLMADGE — Kent Roosevelt head girls soccer coach Jerry Shutway thought giving Kassidy Fischer a little break in the second half might spark an extra fire for when she returned.
The sophomore’s return was certainly explosive as Fischer fought through multiple defenders at the tip of the box and fed senior forward Liz Wiltanger on the right side.
The match ready, Wiltanger provided the flame, sending a 75th-minute scorcher to the top-left corner to lift the Rough Riders to a 2-1 victory over host Tallmadge in a Suburban League American Conference showdown Wednesday at Thomas Rossiaky Stadium.
For the Blue Devils (3-3-0, 0-1-0), there was no shame in hanging with the defending Suburban American champion Rough Riders.
"Kent’s a good team," Tallmadge coach Steve Davis said. "They move the ball really well, they play well as a team, they’re very organized, their coach Jerry knows what he’s doing and does a great job of getting them organized, so I was happy with our performance. I was hoping we could get a little bit of a better result."
Roosevelt (2-3-2, 1-1-1) played well enough throughout the night for its first conference victory — but the goals weren’t coming easy.
Despite controlling play from the start, the Rough Riders found themselves down 1-0 following a deep throw-in from Blue Devils senior midfielder Lauryssa Ridenour that bounced through the box and found junior midfielder Jaclyn Adams for a back-post, 20th-minute strike.
Roosevelt replied within two minutes as sophomore Maggie Oldham — who excelled in the midfield — blasted a rocket to the top-left corner.
Even as they dominated the shot count (16-5) and shots-on-goal count (14-2), the Rough Riders’ most dangerous forays into the box were stuffed by the Blue Devils.
"We did a good job defending," Davis said. "The tough part was they kind of kept us on our heels for a big part of the game."
Early in the second half, Fischer found freshman Julia Oldham with a well-played ball down the left side of the field, but Oldham’s shot sailed just over the bar. In the 52nd minute, Wiltanger knifed her way through the defense but her shot was saved. Numerous Fischer shots were blocked by a gritty Blue Devils’ back line.
"They know how to cover and they know how to make sure that when you’re turned, if you get a turn, that you’re dealing with somebody in your space, that you can’t get a good shot at goal," Shutway said.
With 18:50 remaining, Blue Devils junior forward Kate Hussing had her own chance — quickly turning on a ball well outside the box and playing a hard liner right at Rough Riders junior keeper Cassidy Bourne, who was able to knock down the dangerous shot. Hussing had another close call with 8:05 to play sending a scorcher just over the bar.
"In the second half, we were able to kind of come out a little bit, changed our system and got in their end a couple of times," Davis said. "We missed one that I thought we could’ve put away and maybe that would’ve changed the game, but they had a good goal. They’re a good team."
Knotted at one apiece for nearly the entire second half, Roosevelt’s first Suburban American victory remained stubbornly out of reach.
"I just want to score," Wiltanger recalled thinking. "Just get one more. Just win the game."
And then, in the 75th minute, Fischer, having re-entered the match several minutes earlier, received the ball at the tip of the box toward the center of the field. The Tallmadge defense swarmed to her immediately, with Fischer adroitly sweeping right, breaking through one challenge that nearly tripped her up and finding Wiltanger.
"We felt we were really in it until they scored that goal," Davis said. "It was kind of a killer. That was kind of a back-breaker at the end."
Blue Devils goalkeeper Maria Kisha made nine saves.