If anyone understands the difficulty in defending the speed of the Kellenberg girls soccer team, it's the Firebirds' own defender, Erica Berry.
"Even in practice, I find it's really hard to keep up with them,'' Berry said. "We definitely use that to our advantage and play it to the outside as much as we can.''
Berry not only has the assignment of marking speedy players such as Christina Akalski, Amanda Barroca, Carly Montgomery and Kirsten Wosleger on a daily basis at practice, but has a front-row seat from the backfield on game days to watch them operate.
But in Kellenberg's 2-0 CHSAA win over Sacred Heart Monday, Berry did more than just admire the offense; she joined it. After Barroca's corner kick was deflected by Shannon Kelly, Berry knocked the ball into the open net just 3:14 in.
Berry then returned to the backfield to join a senior defensive unit called the "Core Four,'' which includes Leanne Miller, Taylor Salmon and Micaela Sanger. Along with keeper Paige Salmon, who had 11 saves, they ensured that Berry's goal would be the only one needed.
"We came out as hard as we could, especially considering we lost to them the first time,'' Berry said. "We really just wanted to come out and prove what we have.''
Kellenberg took a 2-0 lead after Akalski split two defenders to find Amanda Calzolano, who sent a looping shot from just outside the box into the upper corner of the net.
The win not only helped Kellenberg (8-1-1) avenge its only loss of the season but puts the Firebirds in position to clinch one of the top two seeds.
"This win was so important,'' Calzolano said. "Now we should have home-field advantage for the semis. Everything should be good from here.''
Arden Ettes had seven saves, some very acrobatic, for Sacred Heart (9-2-1). The opportunities were there for the Spartans, including a shot by Colleen Kavanagh that hit the post in the first half and a shot off Natalie Cikos' corner kick that Salmon stopped from going into an empty net early in the second half. But on this day, there was no getting past the Core Four or keeping up with the Fast Four.
"We have speed all over the field,'' Kellenberg coach Elizabeth Finn said. "Not only are they fast but they are good with the ball. Many defenders can't keep up with that.''