Faith Donley
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John Bruce

Fairfield keeps SHAC title hopes alive, tops North Adams

The Lions stay undefeated in SHAC action.

John Bruce, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

SEAMAN — To win the Southern Hills Athletic Conference championship, Fairfield virtually had to beat North Adams on Saturday.

The Lions, with defending SHAC champion Lynchburg-Clay still on their schedule, did just that.

Fairfield (9-1, 4-0 SHAC) traveled to Seaman, promptly handed the Devils a 2-1 loss and went back to Leesburg sporting smiles.

Fairfield’s Kennedy Zink, pictured from a game last season, helped her Lions top North Adams in SHAC action on Saturday.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

“It’s big. It’s huge. It really is,” Fairfield’s Faith Donley said. “We’ve worked countless hours at practice, just playing our game. The first goal … communication is key. It really is. We knew [North Adams] had an aggressive keeper. Kennedy Zink, my up-top, got good control and crossed it over. Just an easy pass over, with an aggressive goalie and it was easy from there.”

In a meeting between two squads with identical records, it was apparent in the early going that Fairfield was the more loose of the two teams, coming out of the gates with heightened energy and intensity. 

While the Green Devils (8-2, 4-1 SHAC) held an early advantage in shots, most were from distance and provided no trouble for Lion goalkeeper Claire Newkirk. On the other end, Fairfield got a great look early, but North Adams goalie Harlee Brand made a spectacular save to keep the game scoreless through 15 minutes. 

However, the Lions broke through at the 18:20 mark of the first half when Kennedy Zink connected with Donley on the right side of the box. Donley shot to the far post to beat Brand and give the Lions an early 1-0 lead.

Fairfield continued its push towards the goal and was rewarded with a penalty kick with 9:15 left in the opening half. Senior defender Emmi Vance powered the opportunity inside the post to extend the lead to 2-0. 

Throughout the first half, Fairfield’s dominant defense of Vance, Isabelle Hale, and Avery and Landry Teeters, alongside defensive midfielder Hannah Hamilton, did what they had done throughout the season — eliminating chances through communication and skill. 

“At practice, we worked a lot on getting the keeper on her toes and making that extra pass,” Vance said. “I think communication is key. Avery [Teeters] and I have played together since we were little so I feel like we have good communication. We just all work really well together.”

Through 9 ½ games, the Lions’ backline, along with Newkirk in goal, had only allowed two goals in that time frame. However, they would be tested to the max in the second half. 

Coming out of the break, it appeared to be a newly-energized North Adams team as the Devils picked up their own communication and energy. The renewed energy provided goal-scoring opportunities for Kenlie Jones and Hunter Grooms, but Fairfield defense kept those attempts at a distance. 

The next-best scoring chance came for the Lions as Zink nearly made it 3-0. But Brand made another outstanding save to keep the Green Devils in the match. 

With time running down, it was a hustle play from North Adams senior Madi Hesler that kept the Green Devils’ hopes alive. With a through-ball coming into a bang-bang play, Hesler was able to keep a play alive, which eventually led to a hand ball being called on the Lion  inside the box.

That provided a penalty kick attempt for North Adams with 8:55 to play and Jones stepped up to the spot before coolly slotting her shot inside the left post to guarantee a tight finish over the final nine minutes.

The Green Devils battled over that time, but Vance and the Lions’ defense was able to hold them at bay for the group’s biggest win of the season. 

There’s no rest for the weary for North Adams. The Devils will go on the road to battle Lynchburg-Clay on Monday. Fairfield returns to action at home on Wednesday, when Zane Trace travels to Leesburg for a non-league clash.

“We have team goals and one of them is to win this league,” Vance said. “This was a very big game to secure that goal.”

“It’s just huge,” Donley said. “[North Adams] is a great team and props to them. But we came out on top and that’s the biggest thing. We had our minds straight and trusted ourselves.”


1st Half

18:20 – Fairfield – Faith Donley (20th); assist – Kennedy Zink (5th)

9:15 – Fairfield – Emmi Vance (1st) — Penalty Kick

2nd Half

8:55 – North Adams, Kenlie Jones (20th) — Penalty Kick


Shots: North Adams 17, Fairfield 11

Shots on Target: North Adams 9, Fairfield 6

Saves: North Adams, Brand 4 … Fairfield, Newkirk 8

Fouls: North Adams 9, Fairfield 12

Corners Won: North Adams 2, Fairfield 5


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