Cards surprise Panthers, 2-1

O'Brien, Torres score for Union Academy
Mar. 26, 2013 @ 06:27 PM

The girls soccer team is one of the best sports programs on Union Academy's campus.

The Cardinals have won at least one playoff game three of the last four years, and based on their strong start, might have their best team ever in 2013.

Union Academy edged Piedmont 2-1 at home on Monday night, marking one of the biggest regular-season wins in school history.

The Panthers are ranked ninth in the state among 2A schools by eurosportscoreboard.com, and their only previous losses were to ranked 4A schools.

After opening with a 3-0 loss to Cuthbertson, UA has won five straight league games to move in to second place in the RRC.

Kate O'Brien scored first off an Anna Sidders assist to give the Cardinals a 1-0 halftime lead, and Nikki Torres had the game-winning goal on a penalty kick.

"It's a huge win for us," said coach Suzanne O'Dell, whose team improved to 5-1 in the Rocky River Conference and 6-2 overall. "It was hard work. We have a lot of great new players this year. It was a team effort. That's for sure."

The Panthers, who entered the game 4-0 in league play, defeated Union Academy the previous three times in a row by a combined score of 11-0 (dating back to 2011). Piedmont held a 5-1 series advantage against UA before Monday, outscoring the Cards 24-2 with five shutouts in their six lifetime meetings.

Union Academy is ranked 14th in the 1A state poll. O'Dell says the grueling schedule helps keep them focused.

"You've got quality teams like Cuthbertson and Piedmont in this league and on paper, we shouldn't be beating them," O'Dell said. "It helps playing competition like that. It's all about getting better, game by game. So far we've been able to do that."

Union Academy's only losses this season are to 4A Porter Ridge (1-0), which was ranked in the state earlier in the season, and to first-place Cuthbertson, which has played for the 2A state title the past two seasons.

Since the Cardinals started playing a full schedule in 2009, they are now 35-24-1 in the demanding Rocky River Conference — which has produced two state champions during that stretch (Cuthbertson and CATA, both in 2011).

Union Academy is back in action today, taking on archrival Central Academy at home. The Cougars (5-5, 4-2), who edged Monroe 2-1 on Monday, are ranked 15th in the 1A state poll.