Braves headed back to regionals


By Michael Rich

mrichdelgazette@gmail.com

It takes only one word to describe what Olentangy did in Saturday night’s district final game against Dublin Coffman: repeat.

Similarly, it took only one shot … and it came off the foot of Abby Miller with 3:58 left in overtime for Olentangy to hang another district title banner — a second in two years for a program that had never hung one prior.

“We lost a lot of very key players (off last year’s team) and these girls really stepped it up,” Olentangy coach Megan Kirsten said.

Miller broke free, felt a tug on her arm and fired off a shot from the left side that found daylight in the right corner of the net to give Olentangy a 2-1 victory in overtime at Westerville South.

“I just took a touch and shot it and hoped it went in,” she said. “I didn’t see it once it went in.”

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see who scored it,” Kirsten said. “I turned to the bench to say something and the next thing I know, we’re celebrating. So, I completely missed it.”

The teams aren’t strangers. The Shamrocks ended Olentangy’s tournament run in the regional final with a 2-0 win at Gahanna-Lincoln a season ago.

“The girls definitely wanted it (after last season),” Kirsten said. “Coffman is a well-known program. Every year they get ranked high. It’s a great team, a great program every year. It’s not just certain players, it’s always a great program. It’s always great to play them and we wanted it because last year we didn’t get it.”

Coffman finished last season as the state runner-up and, faced with the opportunity to get another shot at the ‘Rocks, Olentangy made the most of it.

“We came in wanting revenge from last year,” Miller said. “It gave us that extra push.”

Ireland Fallona cleaned up a loose rebound in front off a shot by Stephanie Burzynski to give Olentangy a 1-0 edge just over 20 minutes into the game.

“We came out strong,” Kirsten said. “We knew that one goal wasn’t going to win it. At halftime, we said, ‘you have to come out intense, you can’t come out thinking that you’ve won this game already.’”

The action was fast and furious, especially through the latter part of the second half when both goalies, Kelsey Hill of Olentangy and Mikayla Buckley of Coffman made difficult saves within a minute of each other. Hill finished with six saves.

“I was nervous (coming into the game), but I knew what we had to do,” Hill said. “I felt really prepared and I was excited — especially after last year.”

“Kelsey played a phenomenal game for us,” Kirsten said. “She made first team All-OCC for us this year and second team All-District. She’s been our goalie for the past three years and today showed that she was a veteran.”

On Coffman’s next possession, Sophia Bingaman evened the score with a direct kick with 13:15 remaining in regulation.

“I knew that she could place it,” Hill said. “So I was trying to cover that back post and I thought we had the front post, but she squeezed it in. I was really disappointed, but I thought we could come back. We deserved that game.”

Olentangy couldn’t get the go-ahead goal right away. Julia Scott sent a free kick just over the crossbar less than 30 seconds into overtime.

“We were going to put pressure on immediately and I think that we controlled the overtime,” Kirsten said. “I think the girls wanted it more.”

Five minutes into the extra session, Burzynski seemingly had the perfect centering pass to set up Fallona from point-blank range, but Buckley was there to make the save. Buckley finished with 10 saves for the Shamrocks.

Olentangy gets another shot at revenge. The Braves face Pickerington North, who beat them 3-0 at home Sept. 26, in the regional semifinal game Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Gahanna-Lincoln.

“We played them before and we didn’t win, so revenge again,” Miller said. “I’m sure if we work hard and we keep playing our best and do what we do, we’ll do fine.”

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.