LEWIS CENTER – How does a team that’s trying for a repeat trip to the state final four get psyched for a Division I regional final?
Well, the Olentangy Liberty boys soccer team watched highlight videos of the pros “just to get in the mindset” as senior Ludwig Conrad put it, and that’s all the inspiration it needed.
The Patriots struck for two goals in less than 15 minutes and rolled to a 5-0 win over Worthington Kilbourne to capture its second consecutive Division I regional championship Saturday afternoon at Olentangy.
“We got excited to play,” Conrad said. “I think we realized this was one of the last times we were going to get a shot at this. We all put in our hardest work. I think we really showed who we are today.”
Liberty took advantage of a depleted Kilbourne team, which was missing its starting goalkeeper and its leading scorer.
Goalie Tyler Katz suffered a concussion in the first half and forward Chris Guerra was red-carded late in the second half of the Wolves’ 1-0 win over St. Charles on Oct. 30 at Westerville Central.
“Liberty did what Liberty does,” Kilbourne coach Jon Sprunger said. “Year in and year out they’re one of the top teams in Central Ohio. They just played their game exactly as we expected them to play.”
With no backup keeper, the Wolves had to use field players and Liberty made them pay quickly.
“We just weren’t at full strength and didn’t respond well,” Sprunger said.
“From our perspective, we’re going to play whoever’s in front of us,” Liberty coach Marc D’Auteuil said. “It’s not our fault they didn’t have those guys. It is what it is.”
Liam Garcia found a seam in the middle before tapping it to Conrad on his right, who touched it in to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead just 1 minute, 9 seconds into the game.
“I think that really set the tone for the game,” Conrad said. “It really put us on top from the start.”
Garcia dribbled through the defense on the left side and fired a shot that was initially saved by Kilbourne’s Jimmy Sauder, but Jaggar Brooker was there to put the rebound in with 25:35 remaining in the half.
“We talk about it all the time – getting on the board first and making another team uncomfortable and get them off schedule,” D’Auteuil said.
Conrad added another goal and an assist, Liam Garcia and Nate Logozzo each had goals and Parker Cameron added an assist in the second half as the Patriots (17-2-1) put the game out of reach.
Theren Handlon had four saves to anchor a stout defensive effort by Liberty.
“We just stuck to (what we practiced) the whole game,” Liberty defender Blake Collins said. “We stayed positionally correct. When someone gets the ball – there has to be at least three defenders to swarm the ball. The main thing is to force them back. If we force them back – it’s a win for us and then we can get set again and regroup.”
Kilbourne had 71 goals in 20 games coming into the game.
“If there’s been any area that’s been a little inconsistent (this year) – it’s been defensively,” D’Auteuil said. “But in the tournament – we’ve really tightened the ship. To hold a team like that. They really didn’t have any chances until late in the game.”
Carson Kott came off the bench and had three saves for the previously-unbeaten Wolves (17-1-3).
“It was 2-0 and (Sauder) is one of our top defenders … we’re either going get back in this or we’re not,” Sprunger said. “So, we put the next field player in. We have no backup goalkeeper. That’s our biggest issue. If we had one – it probably would have been a lot different.”
Liberty plays Liberty Township Lakota East in a state semifinal Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Xenia’s Doug Adams Stadium.
“We are who we are at this point,” D’Auteuil said. “It’s just making sure that the kids are focused and not being satisfied with this regional final win.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]