By Michael Rich
Olivia Sensky got payback for a broken nose in the best way possible, scoring the game-winner in overtime to propel the Olentangy Liberty girls soccer team to a win over Tomas Worthington and its second straight district title.
Sensky let go of a shot from about 20 yards out and put it high and over the goalie’s reach to give the Patriots a 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon at Westerville South.
“Natalie (Amodeo) played me the ball back and I just saw the shot and hit it,” she said.
She left the game after bumping heads with an opposing player as the two went up for a header.
“She had a bloody nose and wasn’t feeling well, but I’m so glad that she was able to come back,” Liberty coach Kristen McMahon said.
“They told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on at first, but I was like, ‘I need to go on and leave it on the field,’” Sensky said. “I didn’t want this to be our last game. I went on the field with a lot of motivation.”
The Patriots hadn’t gotten over the hump until last season, winning the district title for the first time in school history.
“I think it shows the strength of the program and the strength of the girls in our area, and just how much effort we’ve put into this team,” senior captain Emma Waters said. “Team chemistry is, honestly, what pulls us through. We’re all friends and we all support each other.”
Waters ended up with the ball off her own corner kick and fired a shot on goal. The rebound came out to Abby Jones, who sent it in to give the Patriots an early lead almost seven minutes into the game.
“I saw there was an opening and I decided that instead of taking it wide, which would have been the smart play, I just went with it,” she said.
Similarly, Jordan Fike broke free and fired a shot on goal. The rebound bounced to Haley Pickelheimer and she scored to make it 2-0 with 27:26 left in the first half — a lead the Patriots would take into the break, but not much longer.
“That was our game plan,” McMahon said. “We knew that we needed to follow everything (against Thomas). We did a really good job in the first half. We dominated the first half and the score showed it.”
It seemed only fitting that the two Cardinal goals were scored in similar fashion. Grace DeLuca got a ball through the defense, finding Rian Reid one-on-one with the goalie. Her goal less than two minutes into the second half made it 2-1.
“Obviously, we let up,” McMahon said. “We let them get back into the game, which was not part of the game plan. The girls have been making it a lot more interesting than they need to and I told them, ‘we’re done with that now.’”
But, still, Liberty seemed to have it in hand as time slipped away. The insurance goal was elusive, however, as leading scorer Sarina Dirrig missed a pair of headers midway through the second half and the Patriots couldn’t find the net on a couple of corner kick opportunities a few minutes later.
That left a window for Thomas and again, when Emily Gallinis got a ball through the defense, Reid found herself all alone with the goalie and beat her to tie it with 3:21 left in regulation.
“We have learned to respond a lot better to adversity this year,” McMahon said. “This group … they want it and they’re going to fight very hard until they get it. So, I’m extremely proud of the way they came back. But, obviously, that’s not a fun situation to be in.”
The Patriots and the Cardinals know each other well – they are both members of the OCC-Central. Liberty won the Oct. 13 matchup 2-1 at Thomas. But the two had never met in the tournament.
Liberty gets another OCC-Central rival, Upper Arlington, in the regional semifinal round Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Dublin Jerome High School. The Patriots won the regular season meeting 3-0 Sept. 8 at home.
“We’re just continuing to build and the next game is super important because that’s where we fell last year,” Sensky said. “Next game, we need to come out with a lot of motivation because we’re not done yet.”
Granville 2, Big Walnut 0
Thomas Worthington 4, Liberty 1
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.