There are certainties in life like death, taxes and the Olentangy Liberty girls soccer team playing for a district championship.
Abby Jones and Laura Bichsel each scored first-half goals to lead the Patriots to a 2-0 victory at Hilliard Bradley in a Division I district semifinal Tuesday night.
OK … so, maybe certainty is too strong of a word. But, it is the fifth straight district final appearance for Liberty and the eighth overall for a program that began in 2003.
“This is what we live for … this is what we play for,” Liberty coach Kristen McMahon said.
Jones curled a corner over Bradley goalkeeper Emily Keck’s head and into the goal to give the eighth-seeded Patriots (10-5-3) a 1-0 lead with 29:36 left in the first half.
“This is just a testament to (Jones’) character,” McMahon said. “Truly – she’s a phenomenal soccer player, but her leadership has been amazing this year.”
The corner came a minute after Jones shanked one from the same corner out of bounds. The difference was in her approach. She took a standing approach versus a walking one because of the close proximity of the track.
“Our (field) has more turf over there (in the corner). So, I don’t have to go on the track,” Jones said. “So, the next one, I was like, ‘I’m just going to make it more angled and more bent.’ That’s how it ended bending in.”
Later, Bichsel got past the defense and placed one over the goalie in a one-on-one to push the lead to 2-0 with 1:16 left before the break.
“I think Sydney Weaver was the one that played her the ball from the outside back,” McMahon said. “(Bichsel) just had a great opening and a killer shot.”
A district final appearance didn’t seem as certain for the Liberty this season. The Patriots went through a 0-3-2 stretch, which included giving up a pair of late goals in a loss to rival Olentangy Orange and a pair of late goals in a tie Westerville South.
But, the Patriots have been on fire since a 5-0 loss at Pickerington North. They have won seven of eight games and hold shutouts in each of those seven wins, including Tuesday’s.
“We just came together and we all thought of goals and things we could work on,” Jones said. “We’ve been working on the little things like winning balls in the air and playing to feet. So, we really just starting zoning in on that stuff. (Fixing) that stuff helped us win more games and that helped us build confidence.”
While it may not have seemed certain for some watching from afar, McMahon felt differently.
“We have all the pieces and parts – they just weren’t all working together,” McMahon said. “This is the most talented team I’ve ever coached … we just needed that turnaround. Sometimes it takes those losses or ties … or goals in the last few seconds. But, whatever it was – it turned them around.”
Keck and Macy Ennecking each stopped two shots in goal for the fifth-seeded Jaguars (11-5-2), who defeated Liberty 1-0 in the second game of the season in Hilliard.
The Patriots get a rematch against ninth-seeded Orange — which beat second-seeded Dublin Coffman in a shootout Tuesday in Dublin — in the district final Saturday at a site and time to be determined. The Pioneers scored two goals in the final eight minutes to beat Liberty 2-1 Sept. 12 in Powell.