SALEM - Neither a muddy field nor the Struthers defense could stop Salem as the Quakers cruised to a 9-0 sectional final victory on Thursday at Reilly Stadium.
Four different Quaker girls soccer players scored two goals apiece and goalkeeper Makenzie Schwartz was hardly tested in soggy conditions that turned the pitch into a spongy mess.
Needless to say, Salem wasn't bothered.
"We did what we've been doing all season," Salem coach Travis Zeigler said. "We've been working on possessing the ball. We got the ball at our feet and played a simple game. From there, it leads us to goal."
The Quakers had plenty of those. Anna Wyss, Julia Dundon, Ashley Marx and Marissa Swindell all found the back of the net twice. Hannah Texter scored the first goal of the night, the lone score for her.
The Quakers improve to 12-6, while Struthers ends its season at 0-15-1.
"They have good combination play through the midfield," Struthers coach Kevin Hausch said. "They had some good finishes on early opportunities. We failed to clear the ball and block some shots early in the game when it was still close."
Salem used substitutes frequently to keep starters from potential injury due to the poor field conditions. Swindell is already battling a sprained ankle - one that's put her under duress.
"I think it's more of a mental thing," Swindell said. "We tape it really tight every game."
With the lack of support a wet field gives, Swindell struggled to find her footing for much of the game.
"I fell a lot," Swindell said. "I try to just get through it. We don't know if it's fractured or not, so we're going to check that out after the season."
It didn't help that the Struthers defense focused on stopping Swindell.
"We had a girl matched with her for the entire game," Hausch said. "Her job was to follow her during the game. Luckily for us, Marissa didn't do a lot of scoring, but her teammates stepped up."
Its an uncommon dilemma for the junior striker, who has scored goals consistently and frequently with the Quakers. Swindell already owns the career record for goals scored at Salem (70) and she extended her single-season goal record to 43 on Thursday.
Even while she's struggling to battle though her sprained ankle, Zeigler believes Swindell provide the intangibles needed for any successful team.
"In one-on-one situations, she can win against just about every one of them," Zeigler said. "She brings the enthusiam and the passion for the game. When the team sees that, it changes everybody's attitude."
The Quakers' win sets them up for a district semifinal matchup with top-seeded Canfield. The Cardinals routed Salem 7-0 in their last meeting and defeated Ravenna Southeast 10-1 in their sectional final to set up the rematch, but the Quakers intend to make things much more challenging this time around.
"The first thing we need to do is stop them from scoring," Zeigler said. "That needs to be the focus of the game. From that point, we try to create opportunities. We're going to play a defensive game. They're an outstanding team."
"They're very good at possessing," Swindell added. "We need to take what we did this game and stick with that. We freaked out last game and tried to get it forward, but it didn't really work against their defense."
One of the silver linings of a rematch with Canfield is the potential to play on turf rather than Reilly Stadium's natural grass. While the Cardinals often use the turf to their advantage with their speedy ball movement, anything to get more support for Swindell's ankle could be seen as a positive.
"The turf had a lot to affect it," Swindell said of the last match against Canfield. "We need to get our mindset ready and we'll have a chance."
"Their ball movement is quick," Zeigler said. "We played on grass all season. They caught us offguard. They're fast."
Salem will attempt to slow down the Cardinals, ranked seventh in the state poll, at 7 p.m. Monday in Canfield.
The winner of that game will face the winner of Niles/Cortland Lakeview, who also play on Monday.
Niles defeated West Branch 3-1 on Tuesday at McKinley High School, ending the Warriors' season. Lakeview, meanwhile, defeated Poland 5-3 on Monday.