Olentangy Liberty goalie Skylar Wahlund shut down the Olentangy offense for the final 20-plus minutes of the second half.
He credited a change in attitude pointed out by assistant Mitchell Hughes at halftime of the Patriots’ 13-7 victory over Olentangy in the Division I, Region 1 boys lacrosse final Saturday afternoon at Thomas Worthington High School.
“He said, ‘The difference in this half is that you just have to show great body language,’ and I just listened to him. I did that and my play just followed,” Wahlund said.
Olentangy’s Cam Kennedy found Kyle Milliron to tie the game 6-6 with 8:57 left in the third quarter – the game’s fifth tie.
Wahlund had 13 of his 18 saves in the second half as Liberty (16-5) poured in goal after goal to turn the game from that point on.
“You just have to have a short memory as a goalie,” he said. “I just need to make sure that I’m focusing on the ball and not focusing on other stuff. I needed to be clear-minded the whole time.”
Senior Johnny Wiseman scored four goals and assisted on three others to lead the Patriots and Griffin Hughes added three goals and two assists.
“We haven’t been to the final four since my freshman year,” Wiseman said. “It’s amazing to be back with this group of seniors. We were all gelling together today … everyone was contributing and our defense played out of their minds.”
The game had been a back-and-forth battle. Olentangy jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter on goals by Patrick Grubb and Riley Bruening.
Liberty came right back on goals by John Paolo and Wiseman before the teams exchanged goals the rest of the first half.
Hughes and Wiseman scored back-to-back goals to give Liberty its first lead at 5-4 with 1:23 left in the half.
But, Sam Monastra found the back of the net on a feed from Kennedy with 3 seconds left in the half to tie it once again.
“We gave away a lot of chances, but we also finished them too, and that was huge,” Liberty coach Jason Godwin said. “We didn’t really make any adjustments at halftime other than the fact that we just needed to execute.”
Wiseman fed Ethan Donelson for the go-ahead goal with 7:19 left in the third quarter.
“I don’t think we’d do anything differently,” Olentangy coach Zach Peterson said. “Give credit to (Wahlund), who made some incredible saves. When you have a goalie that gets hot like that, your defense picks up a lot of momentum and confidence.”
Donelson had two goals and an assist, Paolo had two goals, Mcguire Flanigan had a goal and an assist and Vincent Ramondelli added a goal to round out the scoring for Liberty.
Monastra led with two goals, Grubb had a goal and an assist, Kennedy had two assists and Blake Profio had a goal for Olentangy (15-6), which had a six-game winning streak snapped.
“This is the furthest the team has gotten,” Peterson said. “There’s a lot of seniors that we’re really going to miss. I’m really proud of them.”
Charlie Harkin finished with 10 saves in goal for Olentangy.
“(Liberty has) a heck of a team, they have great players and they’re really well-coached,” Peterson said. “I think, schematically, both of us had grown throughout the year.”
Liberty advances to Wednesday’s state semifinal against Cleveland St. Ignatius. The game, which will be played at Wooster High School, is set to start at 7:15 p.m.
Olentangy Liberty rallied for five goals in the second half, but the deficit was too large to overcome in a 15-9 loss to top-seeded New Albany in the Division I, Region 1 final Saturday night at Olentangy High School.
Madison Rapier led with four goals and Molly McCormick added three to lead the way for the Patriots (15-7), who made their first appearance in the regional final round.
Gracie Pine had six goals and Zoe Kellerman added five to lead the Eagles (18-3).
New Albany faces Massillon Jackson in the state semifinal Tuesday night.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter mrichdelgazette.