LEWIS CENTER – Olentangy Liberty boys soccer coach Marc D’Auteuil didn’t sound like the winning coach after the Patriots’ 2-0 win at Olentangy Orange to open the OCC-Buckeye schedule Tuesday night.
“We’re still a work in progress,” D’Auteuil said. “I’m happy that we were able to come on the road and get a win against an undefeated team.”
Jaggar Brooker scored the first goal when he dribbled in a throw-in on the right side before sliding a shot by the goalie back to his left with 28:49 remaining.
“I think (Brooker) was at such a tough angle that the goalkeeper was cheating (over), D’Auteuil said. “Jaggar just buried it behind him.”
Blake Collins added the second goal off a Luke Sensky corner kick with 12:43 left in the half.
In the meantime, Liberty goalie Theran Handlon made highlight-reel saves to earn the Patriots’ fourth shutout on the young season. He made a one-handed stop on an Alex James shot in the 23rd minute while being shielded to keep Liberty’s one-goal advantage.
“I didn’t even see it until it was past the defender,” Handlon said.
He also had a couple of point-blank saves on set pieces later in the game.
“I’m kind of upset that we kept putting ourselves in those situations by giving them corners,” D’Auteuil said. “We were a little bit stretched and diving in defensively and doing some things we don’t normally do.”
But neither Handlon or D’Auteuil were celebratory in the aftermath.
“There’s just a collective feeling that we all felt like we could have played better,” Handlon said. “We’ve (played) better before, but we’re just not playing up to our standards.”
D’Auteuil said it was a feeling shared by most of the team.
“I think our kids are pretty unhappy because I don’t think we played that well,” he said. “I think they feel it as well. We struggled and part of that was because of (Orange).”
Liberty (7-0, 1-0), ranked third in the state in the latest OSSCA poll, remains undefeated though and the team’s reaction to its performance is exactly what D’Auteuil wants to see at this stage of the season.
The Patriots were the top-ranked team in the country at this time a couple of years ago and he feels that they peaked too early.
“I think that year we kind of plateaued out,” D’Auteuil said. “From our perspective – we’ve got to keep challenging these kids to get better. But I like the fact that we’re getting everybody’s best shot and we’re finding ways (to win).”
Orange coach Brett Weiss commented before the game that the Pioneers (5-1-1, 0-1) would find out where they stood.
“There’s a reason why (Liberty) is third in the state,” he said. “We got kind of lost in the game in the first (half) and we paid for it on two set pieces. The nice thing is that when you play teams like (Liberty) – they teach you how to play.
“What I learned about our team is that we’re growing and (we were) resilient tonight. We were pretty low at the half, but we came back in the second. I like the way we played in the second half.”
Next up, Liberty returns to action Thursday against St. Charles in non-league play in a rematch from last year’s regional final. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Orange is off until Tuesday when it continues league play at Westerville Central.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.