By Michael Rich
Much like the regular season, it took the Olentangy Liberty girls soccer team a little while to get going.
Also like the regular season, it was two goals by Sarina Dirrig, the Patriots’ leading scorer, that allowed them to pick up a 2-1 victory over visiting St. Francis DeSales in a Division I sectional final Thursday night in Powell.
“Sarina has been a great player for us the entire year … she made it happen tonight,” Liberty coach Kristen McMahon said.
Senior captain Emma Waters sent a long pass over the Stallion defense that Jordan Fike ran down deep on the right side to set up the deciding goal. Fike placed a perfect centering pass that Dirrig slammed through for the game-winner with 34:17 left in the second half.
Early on, the Stallions’ Bella Shively got the ball through the Liberty defense to find Maddie Rennie all alone. Rennie beat the goalie to her right five minutes into the game to give DeSales (7-8-1) the early 1-0 advantage.
“I think (DeSales) had a lot of momentum coming from the last time that they played us, and obviously we weren’t ready when it started,” McMahon said. “But I’m really proud of our girls for coming back.”
The Patriot win avenged a 1-0 loss to the Stallions at home on Sept. 24.
“(DeSales) is a really, really good team with a lot of skill and we had a lot of motivation to win this game tonight,” Dirrig said.
McMahon adjusted by bringing in junior defender Abby Summers, who returned to the lineup after missing the last four weeks with a strained MCL.
“She stepped into the game when we needed her and played 70 minutes tonight,” McMahon said. “She does such a good job. I think speed was an issue in the back for us, so we put her in and we felt a lot more comfortable.”
“It was hard losing her,” Dirrig said. “She has fantastic speed and great skill. It’s great having her back. She really helps our defense and she really helps our attack.”
The sixth-seeded Patriots came back 11 minutes later thanks to a perfectly placed corner kick by Waters. Dirrig was there to literally bump the pass with her chest and then tap it in for the Patriots’ first goal.
“I was going for a header and it just landed on my chest,” she said. “It just fell in front of my feet and I don’t know why I ended up the ground, but I got a foot in there and it got in the back of the net.”
“We don’t really know how it went in and we don’t really care, (the important thing is) that it went in the back of the net,” McMahon said.
The goal came just after she missed just left on a touch shot after Natalie Amadeo fed her a centering pass.
Liberty hosts a familiar foe in the next round. Worthington Kilbourne, the 12 seed, defeated Westerville North 3-1 to set a rematch from the finale Oct. 15 — a game the Wolves won 3-1 at Liberty.
“It’ll be a good game and I think our girls will be ready for the rematch,” McMahon said. “They scored three goals within 10 or 15 minutes and it spiraled out of control for us.”
The two teams meet again Tuesday night in Powell in the district semifinal round, which begins at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.