MADISON TOWNSHIP — A familiar tournament opponent awaits Madison in the Division II state semifinals, but the 2020 Rocky River Pirates don’t look quite the same as the 2019 edition.
The No. 1-ranked Rams (19-0-3) and third-ranked Pirates (19-0-2) will meet in the postseason for a second straight season, this time in the Final Four at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Medina High School’s Ken Dukes Stadium. Madison blanked Rocky River 3-0 in last year’s regional semifinals en route to a state runner-up finish.
Rocky River coach Patrick Hopkins welcomed a key addition this fall in freshman Ava Patti. The talented forward has 27 goals, including a pair in Rocky River’s 2-0 win over Richfield Revere in the Region 5 championship match Saturday. Her 27 goals are the most in a single season since Abby Elinsky scored a program-record 43 goals during Rocky River’s state championship 2013 season.
As prolific as Patti has been — she has 12 goals in five postseason games — the Pirates are in the state semifinals because of their defense. Saturday’s win over Revere was Rocky River’s 15th shutout, breaking the single-season record of 14 by the 2013 team.
Madison’s defense has been just as stingy. The Rams have posted 12 shutouts this season, including four in six tournament games. Madison has outscored its six tournament opponents 41-2.
Senior goalkeeper Paige Eldridge came up with a pair of sensational saves late in the first half of Saturday’s 3-1 win over St. Marys Memorial after the Rough Riders tied the match at 1-1. Taylor Huff scored the go-ahead goal moments after a diving Eldridge save as the Rams defended their regional title.
“We were doing really good throughout the first half, but we started to shut down after they started to pressure,” said Eldridge, who has 27 saves on the season. “They had two really good shots and I had to stay composed and try to stop every ball that came to me.”
The Rams, who reached the state championship match last fall, know nothing will come easy the rest of the way.
“Rocky River is really good. We know they are really good,” Eldridge said. “We know what to expect from here on out. We’re excited to be here again.”
Taylor Huff agreed.
“It’s super incredible that we’ve won three regionals in four years,” Huff said. “I’m just so proud of us.”