Olentangy Liberty threw everything it had at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit after falling into an early 2-0 hole in Friday’s Division I girls soccer state championship game, but the 10-time champion Warriors showed why they’ve been so successful over the years en route to winning their 11th, 2-1, Friday afternoon at Historic Crew Stadium.
Walsh Jesuit (17-2-3), making its second state-appearance in the last three years, looked poised to run away with things early.
Hannah Pachan broke the scoring seal, collecting the ball just outside the box, taking a dribble to her right and sending a rocket past a diving Hailey Myers and into the far corner of the net less than seven minutes into the action.
After Liberty picked up a pair of yellow cards in rapid succession, Pachan made the second one hurt. After getting fouled just outside the box, she stepped up to the spot to take the ensuing free kick — a kick she again ripped past a diving Myers and into the back of the net with 22:15 left in the opening half.
Determined to get back into the things, the Patriots, who hadn’t lost in their last 11 games, turned up the pressure the rest of the way.
A cross from Avery Hilvert didn’t connect, but Chloe Brecht’s shot off a feed from Hilvert a few minutes later did as Liberty (19-3-1) sliced its deficit in half with about 10 minutes left until the intermission.
“I think on the goal, I kinda just saw a 50-50 ball in the air and, even though the defenders were there first, I knew if I got my body in front of it I could get around them,” Brecht said. “I think the goal really opened up more opportunities for us … it really gave us the momentum to keep going.”
The Patriots, looking for an equalizer in the final minute of the half, came up just short as a corner kick off the foot of Ava Petrucci hit the side of the net.
“As we went into halftime, the big thing was controlling our emotions,” Liberty coach Chris Allen said. “We’re on a big stage, never been here before … we’re the rookies, right? I think everything that brought us to this point — things that made us good all year, like moving the ball a little more and staying patient — are what I tried to refocus us on from a playing perspective.”
If the message wasn’t loud and clear by halftime, Liberty made sure Walsh knew it was in for a battle early in the second half as Hilvert’s cross just missed a leaping Lexie Mitchem’s head a few minutes in.
The Patriots continued to push, but things got late in a hurry as, after Audrey Kalmar’s free kick from a few yards outside the box was too far for anyone except Walsh keeper Adri Lika to get to, the clock was winding under 10 minutes.
Liberty got another solid chance when Brecht flicked a cross into the box with 4:15 left. Lika couldn’t handle it, but the Patriots came up empty on the ensuing corner kick.
Brecht got a good look with three minutes left, but her close-range shot was poked out of harm’s way by a diving Lika.
Walsh held on from there, nabbing title No. 11 while Liberty’s season ended as state runner-up for the first time in program history.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Allen said. “I’m really proud of the effort they gave to fight back into this game and give a good performance.”