XENIA – Senior Anna Podojil was poised to get a goal all night.
So, when she deflected a clearing attempt by the goalie and scored into an empty net for the go-ahead goal late in the second half – it seemed fitting.
She scored the go-ahead goal with 11:25 remaining to send Indian Hill to its second trip to the Division II girls soccer state championship in as many years with a win over Big Walnut – this time by a 2-1 margin Tuesday night at Xenia’s Doug Adams Stadium.
The ball was fed back to the goalie and Podojil was able to step in front of the clearing attempt and knock it back. She took her shot from the far-left side and snuck it just inside on the right side of the goal for the game-winner.
“I saw her coming out and I knew I could get there,” Podojil said. “I saw her hesitating and she kicked it pretty frantically and it bounced off me and I was able to get that angle and finally get it in.”
It was the first time the Golden Eagles (14-3-4) gave up more than one goal in a game since the season-opener at New Albany.
“Just like for everybody – you’ve gotta keep your head up moving forward,” BW coach Chris Allen said. “You can’t dwell on the mistakes.”
It took all of 40 seconds for Indian Hill to score all the goals it would need to defeat Big Walnut in last year’s state semifinal.
“Last year – we scored two early goals and added a third and fourth goal,” senior Bryn Wirthin said. “It fairly easy for us to just kick the ball up and play to our two super-fast forwards. This year we had to really focus on keeping possession – which we struggled with.”
This time, the Golden Eagles let one in off a corner kick midway through the first half. But they responded a little more than two minutes later with the equalizer.
Indian Hill’s Podojil gave the Eagle defense fits in the early-going – most notably in the ninth minute. Podojil ended up with the ball near midfield after a Grace Bodker corner was cleared by the Indian Hill defense.
She sailed through the open field on the right side before sending a low shot that BW goalkeeper Payton Carter went to her knees to stop.
Indian Hill (17-2-3) kept the pressure on – breaking through when Claire deHamel slid one to the top of the box where Wirthin was there to send it into the back of the net with 21:34 left in the first half for a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t think we were out of the game by any means,” Allen said. “Sure, they scored, but they weren’t in control of the game. We were fortunately able to get one back.”
Unlike last time, the Eagles had a response … and it was immediate.
Alyssa Tarney was fouled trying to get clear for a shot in front of the goal and Grace Bodker sent the ensuing penalty kick to the right corner of the net to tie it 1-1 with 19:29 remaining in the half.
“I think we played a pretty good game,” Allen said. “It was nothing different than what we’ve done before – it’s just that we’re on the losing end today. I think we did a lot of good things to get to this point. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”
Podojil was fed through by Meghan O’Brien in the 41st minute, but her shot was stopped by Carter from point-blank range.
O’Brien tried to follow with the rebound, but her shot – that would have given Indian Hill the lead – missed wide left.
“They had a very physical defense,” Podojil said. “The forwards had to lay it off and get in behind for us to score. They had a strong back line.”
Podojil had a second shot stopped by Carter from close range in the 62nd minute.
Indian Hill faces Bay Village Bay for the state championship at MAPFRE Stadium Friday at 4 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.