The Big Walnut girls soccer team will embark on a trip to the state tournament for the first time in school history after a decisive 8-0 victory over New Philadelphia.
“This has been years in the making. We’ve been building this program from the ground up in the last five years,” BW coach Drew Pitzer said. “It feels good.”
Junior Emily Neff lead the Golden Eagles (16-2-4) with three goals in the Division II regional final Saturday in Hebron at Lakewood High School’s Calhoun Memorial Field at Lancers Stadium.
It’s been a long road back for Neff, who tore her ACL at the end of the last basketball season. She made her return in the Sept. 30 game against Worthington Christian after missing the first 12 games.
“It’s definitely challenging … it’s scary. I just know in my head that my teammates have my back,” she said. “I’ve been able to play this game since I was little and I just trust myself. I just can’t shy into any tackles and just go hard. I have confidence in myself.”
It took a while for BW to crack the scoring column. Pitzer likened a scoring slump earlier this season to a basketball shooter that needs to keep shooting. Once one goes in, others will follow.
So, when Emma Padgett scored off an Adelee Gartner feed to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead with 17:54 left in the first half, it opened the flood gates.
“We knew it was coming,” Pitzer said. “It was one of those games where if we got one or two, we’d get six or seven … maybe eight. We just had to bide our time … we just had to settle down.”
Morgan Bodker scored with 9:18 left in the half to give BW a 2-0 lead.
That’s when Neff took over. She lasered a shot in net off a free kick with 6:38 left in the half to blow the game open.
“I started crying immediately – I mean instant chills,” Neff said. “I had confidence – I knew I could make that shot. And when coach told me to take that shot, I was like, ‘All right, everybody believes in me – I just have to put it in the back of the net.’”
Neff added her second goal of the game, beating the goalie high with 4:59 left before the break to push the lead to 4-0.
“Her confidence level has to be sky high right now,” Pitzer said. “She lit it up. We knew she had a big left foot – she’s had it for years. We just had to get her healthy enough to get in there to be able to contribute more than just one shot. She’s getting there and she connected (today).”
Meade, Gartner, Audrey Hofer and Neff each scored in the second half to round out the scoring for the Eagles and Kimberly Sarna and Alyssa Tarney each finished with an assist.
Penelope Cantu had 12 saves for the Quakers (13-8-1).
The numbers are staggering for the Eagles. This is their 11th straight win, their fourth consecutive shutout and 16th overall for the season. They have given up four goals in 18 games since giving up seven in the previous two.
And now they’re in the final four.
“It honestly doesn’t even feel real,” Meade said. “We’ve come so far as a team. As freshmen, we weren’t even thinking about this (kind of) opportunity. Now, it’s actually real. It’s actually happening for us.”
BW turns its attention to Cincinnati Indian Hill, ranked No. 1 in the final Division II coaches’ poll. The state semifinal is at Kettering Fairmont High School Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
“They are a very, very good team,” Pitzer said. “They play big-girl soccer and they’re going to move the ball really well. They’re going to be fast. Cincinnati is known for good soccer. We’re going to have to work hard. It’s going to take a lot of effort Tuesday.”
Olentangy Liberty 2, Dublin Jerome 0
Madison Rapier and Abby Jones each scored second half goals in the Patriots’ Division I regional final victory over Jerome Saturday afternoon at Dublin Scioto High School.
Abby Townsend assisted on both goals for Liberty, which took home its second regional championship in the last three years.
Riley Cartwright stopped seven shots in goal for the Patriots (13-5-3), who defeated Jerome 2-1 Aug. 31 in Powell.
Jess Walsh had three saves in goal for the Celtics (15-4-2).
Liberty faces Loveland in the state semifinal Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Centerville Alumni Stadium.
Big Walnut defeated Granville 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23 in a Division II regional final at Zanesville High School to advance to its first state final four since 2010 and seventh overall.
The Golden Eagles (24-3) picked up their 13th straight victory of the season and 23rd out their last 24.
Machaela Podraza had 20 kills and 29 assists, Kelsie Imertreijs had 17 kills, Meredith Thomas had 31 digs and Sammi Bickley had 33 assists to lead BW.
BW meets Kettering Archbishop Alter, ranked second in the final coaches’ poll, in the state semifinal at the Nutter Center at Wright State University Friday night at 6 p.m.