LEWIS CENTER – Senior Sophia Leonetti scored two goals to lift the injury-plagued Olentangy Orange girls soccer team to a 4-0 win over visiting Delaware Hayes in non-league play Thursday night.
That’s three wins in three games despite playing shorthanded because of injuries. The Pioneers have been without seniors Grace Poorbaugh (ankle) and Samantha Fedio (leg) and juniors Abby Sutley (knee) and Liz Woo (ankle).
“I feel very fortunate because we’ve got a good amount of depth on this team and we had to use every bit of it tonight,” Orange coach Tim Lawrence said. “It was a good team effort … from back to front.”
Three of the four are expected back in the next couple of weeks.
Leonetti, one of five captains, attributes the team’s success to being close-knit.
“It’s just unlucky timing,” she said. “But we powered through. We didn’t let our injuries hurt us in any way. We’ve just gotta keep pushing.”
The depleted Pioneers (3-0) were challenged by Hayes for much of the first half. The Pacer defense packed the box, forcing patience by the Orange offense.
“The girls came out hungry and aggressive,” Hayes coach Bradd Smiley said. “I thought we cut off the passing lanes very, very well. It’s just unfortunate that we can’t (put) the pressure on their defense a little more and put them on their heels.”
Still, the Pioneer offense made Hayes goalkeeper Abby Weller work. Weller had to dive for saves on four of her five first-half saves, including back-to-back possessions with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half.
“(Delaware) had a good game plan,” Lawrence said. “I think they were trying to keep us at bay. So, it was big for us to get that goal before the half.”
Maia Kaufman led Hannah Heald into open space on the right side, but Weller made saves on both Heald shots on dives to her right.
With close-range not working, Leonetti decided to try from distance. She beat Weller high on a shot from the middle from about 30 yards out to break the scoreless game with 3:25 left in the first half.
“I saw her off the line … so, I shot it and hoped for the best,” Leonetti said. “After we got our first goal things settled down and then we started getting our momentum back.”
Leonetti added her second goal on a penalty kick with 37:08 left in the game after Camryn Earl was fouled in the box.
Earl added the third goal a little over 11 minutes later, also beating the goalkeeper high.
Morgan Scott scored off an Addie Masters feed with 6:57 remaining to cap the scoring.
Weller led the Pacers (1-2) with 10 saves and KJ Hudson added another late in the second half.
Amanda Poorbaugh stopped three shots in goal for the Pioneers – all in the second half.
“Orange is a great team and I thought we went toe-to-toe with them in the first half,” Smiley said. “I feel very good about what we did. Orange is a very, very good team, so hats off to them.”
Both teams are back at it Tuesday night at 7:15 p.m. Hayes opens up OCC-Cardinal with a trip to Hilliard Darby and Orange continues its non-league slate with a visit to Dublin Coffman.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.