GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS – Senior captain Sydney Richards had a goal and an assist to lead the Olentangy girls soccer team to a 2-1 win over rival Olentangy Orange to capture its first Division I district title since 2015 and the third overall Saturday afternoon.
Earl Devanny won his first as head coach after serving as an assistant on Olentangy’s two previous district title-winning teams.
“I don’t know if there’s more stress at the end of the game as a head coach,” he said. “It’s just terrific to see the players take responsibility and grow on the field.”
Richards helped fifth-seeded Olentangy (14-3-2) overcome a 1-0 deficit with a cross to Kylie Beinecke for the tying goal with 5:41 left in the first half.
The game seemed destined for overtime after Richards sent a shot off the right post off a Beinecke feed in the 58th minute.
“We’re an inch away from scoring,” Richards said. “But, I knew if we kept working – it was going to come to us eventually. So, I’m glad that one of us finally got the goal because we definitely deserved to win that game.”
Orange goalkeeper Amanda Poorbaugh denied Beinecke the go-ahead goal with a diving save a couple of minutes later. Poorbaugh finished with six saves in goal for the 10th-seeded Pioneers (11-6-2).
Then, Richards let go of a shot from the top of the box off a Kayla Primm touch-pass – beating the goalie to the right to give Olentangy the lead with 15:09 remaining.
“It felt a little bit unreal to be honest,” she said. “This was Orange. We already played them before. We just broke the tie. Our team wanted it so bad and we had been fighting for it. When everybody came in (to celebrate) it just felt so good. This whole season has been long, but this is what we worked for.”
Olentangy has made the district finals five straight years, but had been denied a title the previous two after winning back-to-back.
“We’ve been together as a team more than we’ve been the previous years,” Richards said. “I think that is what got us a step further to the district title. Our team is so close-knit … and what we were lacking in past years. It feels better to win as a team.”
Sophia Leonetti gave Orange the lead after heading in Aurelia Johnson’s free kick with 33:41 left in the first half.
“(It was a) good goal,” Orange coach Tim Lawrence said. “It would have been good for us to maintain the lead going into the half.”
“It was frustrating in the sense that we practiced defending that specific play,” Devanny said. “So, I think everybody was sort of mad at themselves that we practiced it and then yielded the goal. But, I thought the response was terrific. Our time on the ball was way up and I think, overall, we finished the first half strong.”
Olentangy beat Orange two weeks ago to clinch the OCC-Buckeye championship and the Pioneers were ready to avenge.
“(It was a) good season … not great,” Lawrence said. “We lost the OCC to these guys and we lost the district to them, so I can’t say it’s a great season.”
Olentangy plays Pickerington North in a regional semifinal Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Dublin Jerome.
Big Walnut 1, Granville 0
The second-seeded Golden Eagles did it again, getting a goal from Avery Maxeiner to slip past the state-ranked Aces — the top seed — in Saturday’s Division II district championship at Westerville North.
The Big Walnut defense took care of the rest, notching its second straight shutout of the postseason. Payton Carter anchored things in the BW goal, finishing with seven saves.
Next up, the Eagles will take on Chillicothe Unioto in a regional semifinal Tuesday night at Bloom-Carroll.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.