Freshman Natalie Hegg had a goal and an assist to help the Olentangy girls soccer team score three times in an 11-minute stretch in the first half.
The Braves didn’t find the back of the net again … but they didn’t need to.
Freshman Kayla Primm and senior Emerson Woerner also had first half goals to send Olentangy to a 3-0 victory over rival Olentangy Liberty to capture its first title in the new OCC-Buckeye Division and third straight overall.
“This is our third straight title and we weren’t ready to give that title up,” senior goalie Emma Spinner said.
“Every time we play (Liberty), it just depends who shows up,” Olentangy coach Megan Kirsten said. “They’re a great team and they have some really fantastic players, but our girls wanted it.”
Kirsten said she was uncertain that Hegg would make the team when the season started.
Hegg was on vacation during some of the non-mandatory team workouts. Kirsten decided to take a chance on her. It was a good thing she did.
“Thank goodness we put her on varsity,” Kirsten said.
Hegg found the back of the net after an Erin Wilt centering pass to give Olentangy (10-2-4, 4-0-1) a 1-0 lead with 31:55 left in the first half.
“That ball was kind of bouncing around (in front) and I thought for sure (Hegg) would take that extra touch and she just went for it and it went in the back of the net,” Kirsten said.
Freshman Kayla Primm scored the second goal just under six minutes later on a header off a Hegg corner kick to push the lead to 2-0.
Junior McKenna Riesterer set up the third goal when she stepped in front of a clearing attempt and fed Woerner, who split two defenders before beating the goalie right with 20:52 left in the half.
“I just had a little touch with my left foot and just shot it right post,” Woerner said.
Spinner had four saves en route to recording the shutout in goal for Olentangy.
“We work on goalkeeping stuff every day in practice and I can’t tell you how much (Olentangy assistant) Earl (Devanney) helps us get better each day,” she said. “I live by the ‘get one percent better each day’ (mantra) and I think this game really showed it. I’m really proud of myself, but it’s the support of everyone else that makes it better.”
Olentangy needed a win over Liberty after a scoreless tie against Westerville Central, one of three scoreless ties this season, gave it one fewer league win than the Patriots.
“I feel like the hype (leading up to the game) was just insane,” Woerner said. “Knowing that we just worked together and played as a team and played for each other, that’s what got us this win.”
The rivalry has already been white hot between the two schools the last few years. Both are coming off back-to-back league titles in the previous OCC alignment. Now that they’re in the same league only adds more fuel.
“It was already a big rivalry because of the inter-district game, but now the conference (title) meant a little bit more,” Liberty coach Kristen McMahon said. “Obviously, it was a big game and after winning by such a big margin last year, our girls really wanted to have a big game this year.”
The Patriots won 4-1 at Olentangy in the regular season last year.
The schools faced each other in the regional semifinal round in each of the past two years with Olentangy ending Liberty’s season in 2014 and Liberty ending Olentangy’s in 2015.
The Liberty (11-3-1, 4-1) defense has usually been solid, recording seven shutouts. The Patriots have only given up three goals in a game once this season.
“I think there was a lot of pressure on them,” McMahon said. “This isn’t the end of our season … it’s not the tournament or anything, which is what they’re really looking forward to. But, they definitely took it a little hard.”
Emma Campbell, who led Liberty with three saves in goal, left the game early in the second half after she collided with an Olentangy player trying to clear a corner kick.
McMahon said they’ll have to wait and see, but hopefully with the time off after the regular season, she’ll be back for the tournament.
“She’s in a lot of pain right now,” McMahon said. “Hopefully, it’s nothing serious.”
Grace Poncsak had one save in relief for the Patriots.
Next up, Liberty closes out its regular season at Upper Arlington Saturday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. Olentangy turns its attention to the district tournament, in which it is seeded ninth and will host 40th-seeded Centennial in the second round Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.