NORTH CANTON: Stow went on the aggressive and jumped on North Canton Hoover with a flurry of three goals in the first half to pull out a 4-2 road win Thursday night.
The Bulldogs, who have found some success in recent weeks after a rocky start to the season, wanted the ball deep in Hoover territory as soon and as much as possible.
“We were the aggressor, right from the beginning of the game,” Stow coach Kyle Kosmala said. “We were attacking the ball, swarming the ball and then getting outside and starting our attack quickly.”
Stow (4-7-2) senior KC Kolke scored the first goal with a header off a corner kick. Kolke then found senior Ryan Dugan, who slipped free of his man and scored the second goal minutes later. The third goal, from senior Tyler Malorni, also came off a corner kick.
Hoover coach Neil Baastan believes winning free balls creates scoring opportunities, and that’s what Stow did well Thursday night.
“The first 20 or 25 minutes, they outhustled us,” he said. “They beat us to the ball. They were getting to balls before us and before we knew it, we were down 3-0. Stow deserved it tonight.”
The Vikings (7-4-3) weren’t out of it for long. Hoover nearly made it a one-goal game.
Hoover senior Nick Hazen found the net with two seconds left in the first half after a cross from the corner couldn’t be cleared. Less than a minute into the second half, junior Noah Stanislaw had a breakaway chance but was denied by Stow goalkeeper Luke Rocco, who dove to his right to make the save.
Things made a turn for the worse for Hoover 10 minutes later. An inadvertent handball directly in front of the goal put the Vikings a man down and gave senior Grant DuHamel a free kick, which he made good use of to put Stow ahead 4-1.
Hoover never went away but couldn’t get within striking distance. Junior Brian Nickel made it 4-2 with a great bending free kick around Stow’s wall of defenders, but Rocco dismantled every other scoring chance, which included several promising crosses that were punched out of the box. Rocco was converted to goalie only last year but looked like a veteran at his position.
“He [Rocco] played really well,” Kosmala said. “He’s an aggressive, strong kid and he’s done a great job of getting the 50-50 balls.”
After starting the season 1-7-1 against a loaded schedule, Stow is 3-0-1 in its past four games. Kosmala says the team, which has 10 seniors, followed their urging to just stay with it.
“It’s just been our refusal to quit,” Kosmala said. “We had several talks early on about ‘Hey, we played three teams ranked in the top 10 in the state in the first couple of weeks in the season.’ So we were staying on the guys to keep their heads up and thought the rest of our games were all winnable. We turned some things around.”