Olentangy Berlin – check. Olentangy Liberty – check.
The Olentangy Orange girls soccer team is two-thirds of the way to reaching one if its goals and one-fifth of the way to reaching another thanks to a 2-0 win over rival Liberty to open OCC-Buckeye play Thursday night in Lewis Center.
The stakes were high when the Patriots and the Pioneers played last year.
Orange beat Liberty 2-1 in Powell early in the conference season, which helped the Pioneers capture a league title.
“We obviously set goals every year and the OCC is very important to us,” Orange coach Tim Lawrence said. “And playing a rival like Liberty – the girls raise their game.”
“We had our goals laid out and one of those goals was to beat Liberty,” senior Grace Weidenhamer said. “We (want) to beat all of the Olentangy teams, win the OCC and a district title. This is another step in that process.”
Liberty returned the favor, beating Orange 3-1 at Dublin Jerome to capture its fourth straight district title on its way to a second state final four in three years.
“I think this team has the potential to have a tournament run and do well,” Liberty coach Hillary Carter said. “This is the first OCC game, so a lot of stuff can still happen. I don’t think that one loss here means we’re out of the running for anything. We just have to take care of business and hopefully some other teams help us out, too.”
Aurelia Johnson beat the goalie high on a free kick a little less than 10 minutes into the game to put the Pioneers (2-3-1, 1-0) on the board.
They made it stand, holding Liberty without a shot on goal in the first half.
Meanwhile, Orange had a flurry of near misses toward the end of the half. Samantha Fedio freed up Maia Kaufman with a pass through the middle of the defense in the 34th minute, but the shot rolled wide right.
Grace Poorbaugh sent a shot wide left on the next possession and Liberty defender Lyndsey Kijowski stepped in front of a Camryn Earl centering pass and cleared it to keep the Patriots close through the break.
Liberty only managed one shot on goal and it came in the second half. Emma Lindsay found space in the middle, but her shot was saved with relative ease by Orange goalkeeper Amanda Poorbaugh, who took over for Linnea Milner at the start of the second half.
“Defensively, we were organized and dialed in,” Lawrence said. “Our goalkeepers didn’t have to work too much. A couple of set pieces and balls coming in – but other than that – they were sharp in the back.”
“We just didn’t come out entirely focused tonight,” Carter said. “We were struggling to connect with each other tonight. We couldn’t get the ball into the final third to allow ourselves chances on goal. (Orange) did a good job of winning balls and we just couldn’t get ahold of it tonight.”
Orange almost added to its lead in the 63rd minute. Shazia Waggoner centered from the left to Johnson, but her shot missed wide.
Weidenhamer finally got a shot to go, sending a shot in off a Morgan Scott centering feed with 3:43 left.
The Pioneers almost added another on their next possession. Kaufman broke through the Liberty defense and missed just right.
“We had some nice movement in our attack,” Lawrence said. “We probably could have had another goal or two.”
Riley Cartwright finished with four saves in goal for the Patriots (2-4-2, 0-1), who played their first game since Sep. 4.
“I think tonight is a night that helps us refocus,” Carter said. “We just had a lot of time off. I think it’s a blessing and a curse to be able to rest our bodies, but then we get away from the game a little bit.”
Liberty is back in action Saturday against Lakota East in non-league play. The teams will kick off at 3 p.m. in Powell. Orange is off until Tuesday when it travels to New Albany in non-league play.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.