Some things are worth the pain and the strain.
Lady Red Devil senior Erica Cullen would likely second that emotion after recording her first varsity hat trick (three goals in one game) Thursday night in Ravenswood's much-needed 3-2 victory over No. 15-ranked Herbert Hoover at Eastwood.
It's been a long road back for Cullen who was injured as a sophomore in Ravenswood's heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Sissonville in the 2010 sectional championship game at Pt. Pleasant, and was then knocked out of her junior season (2011) just six games in, in a devastating collision with Nitro goalkeeper Becca Hall that sidelined her with a knee injury.
The road back has been long and painful, but Cullen made it. Thursday night made the trip worth the journey, and Ravenswood is glad she came.
Cullen broke up a scoreless first half by drilling a shot just inside the right slide post of the goal off an assist from Jordan Sheets in the 34th minute. Cullen's goal made it 1-0 in favor of the Lady Devils and that lead held at the half.
Cullen added her second goal of the game on a header in the box off a crossing assist from Bess McNabb. The scoring play went from Kayla Scritchfield to Georgie Fitzwater, across to McNabb to Cullen who headed the ball down, skipping it past Hoover keeper Bailey Aab into the right corner of the net. The goal in the 45th minute extended Ravenswood's lead to 2-0.
Hoover got untracked just under four minutes later in the 49th minute when freshman Hannah Schoolcraft scored her first of two goals to slice the Ravenswood lead in half at 2-1.
Cullen completed her first hat trick with 22:18 to play in the game, drilling a 25-yard shot into the upper center of the net over Aab for a 3-1 Ravenswood advantage.
Yet Hoover would not quit, attacking furiously in the final minutes. Schoolcraft scored her second goal of the game with 8:03 left to make it 3-2, but the Lady Devils' defense held on for the win.
Marta Corbin, Jordan Danko, Alex Vaughn, Alex McNabb, Bess McNabb, Jordan Sheets, Kayla Scritchfield, Amber Hannum and Kassie Johnson all played strong games.
Senior Anna Flesher recorded five saves in goal. Aab had 12 saves for the Huskies.
Ravenswood had 15 shots to Hoover's seven, and seven corner kicks to Hoover's one. The Lady Devils took three direct kicks to Hoover's one and two indirect kicks to Hoover's three.
Ravenswood (ranked No. 20 in AA/A) improved to 2-4, while Hoover slipped to 4-5.