By Rob Kiser
SIDNEY — Rarely at the end of a tournament game do you see both coaches feeling positive
But, that was exactly the case after the top seeded Lehman girls soccer team got past a scrappy Troy Christian team that was seeded seventh 2-1 in D-III sectional action at Sidney Memorial Stadium/30&0 Field Monday night.
And with good reason.
Lehman, 13-4-1, moves on to play Cincinnati Country Day at 7 p.m. Thursday at Monroe High School for a D-III district title.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” Lehman coach Jeremy Lorenzo said. “We had tied earlier this year. Brian (Peters) is a great coach and does a phenomenal job preparing his team. Anytime we go up against them, we know it is going to be a tough game. They put together two great games in the tournament to get here.”
And while Troy Christian ended the season at 9-8-2, Peters couldn’t have asked any more of his players.
“I am really proud of them,” he said. “The last four or five games, we got back to playing Troy Christian soccer. Jeremy (Lorenzo) always does a great job with his team. We had five strong seniors. Meredith (Haddad) didn’t play, but Hannah Benjamin, Gabby Flannary, Allyssa Donald and Liah Biller all played great tonight. They have played almost every minute of every game. That is going to be a tough group to replace. I thought our backs just played a great game tonight.”
All the scoring occurred late in the first half, with Kaitrin O’Leary scoring both Lehman goals.
“It just feels amazing,” O’Leary said about the two-goal game.
With about 18 minutes to go, Hannah Fogt had fired a free kick from 42 yards that only a leaping tip by Troy keeper Cara Salazar kept out of the goal.
At the 13:40 mark, O’Leary fired a shot that Salazar again was able to deflect, giving Lehman a corner.
Grace Olding sent the corner out to the 30-yard line, where Moriah Pauley gave a O’Leary a ball in front of the goal that she headed in to make it 1-0.
“That is a set piece we work on all the time,” Lorenzo said. “Moriah (Pauley) sends it into the mixer and Kaitrin (O’Leary) was able to get a head on it.”
O’Leary’s eyes lit up when she saw the ball coming.
“Moriah (Pauley) couldn’t have given me a better ball,” O’Leary said. “It was perfect.”
Later, Olding and Grace Monnin worked the ball down the field before crossing to O’Leary, who maneuver around a defender and found the net with 6:48 to go in the half.
“They got me the ball and I was able to create an angle on a shot,” O’Leary said.
Lorenzo was not surprised.
“We always talk to the kids about stepping up and Kaitrin (O’Leary) did that tonight,” he said.
Lehman was originally called for offsides on the play, but it was waived off.
“There was a re-direct,” Peters said. “They said the girl offside didn’t affect the play.”
Just when it seemed Lehman was in control, Troy Christian responded just a minute later.
After working the ball down the field, Kenley Blake crossed to Riley Spoltman, who put the ball in the back of the net.
“We are up 2-0 and feeling like we are in control,” Lorenzo said. “Then just like that, the lead was cut in half. I am not sure what happened, but they got a wide open shot and hit it.”
And while Lehman controlled the ball most of the second half, there was a deciding moment.
With 11:54 to go, Lehman keeper Grace Brandt deflected a shot off the goal post, which is out of play. When the ball came down in front of the goal, Troy Christian put it in and the Lady Eagle fans thought the game was tied.
“I don’t think it was as exciting as it looked,” Lorenzo said. “The ball hit the goal post. Our kids knew it and quit and Troy Christian kept playing.”
Still, the Eagles had a corner kick and Benjamin placed it perfectly in front of the goal, but Lehman was able to clear the ball.
“It is not like we didn’t have opportunities,” Peters said.
It was the final opportunity for the Eagles, as Lehman controlled the ball much of the rest of the way.
With 9:05 remaining, Lehman had a 2-on-1, but when O’Leary crossed the ball to Sara Fuller, Salazar was somehow able to come out of goal and intercept the pass.
“She (Cara Salazar) is unbelievable back there and she is just a freshman,” Peters said. “She understands the game and has great vision.”
Lehman outshot Troy Christian 12-6. Salazar had seven saves, while Brandt had five.
While Troy Christian played without Haddad due ot injury, Lehman was without Molly Safreed.
“She is a game changer for us,” Lorenzo said. “She has missed the last three games and our bench has really stepped up.”
Now, Lehman moves on to play Cincinnati Country Day.
“It should be a really good game,” Lorenzo said. “Cincinnati Country Day’s only loss is to Summit (Country Day), who also beat us.”
And Lorenzo hopes the ending will be another one to be excited about.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.