The Press Newspaper
They Flyers could have played as if they were the underdog and had nothing to lose, or they could have figured they were due for a hard-fought victory.
As it turned out, first-year coach Steve Hoffman's team suffered a 1-0 loss to the Eagles in Findlay, ending its season at 12-4-4.
"It was a great game," Hoffman said. "It was pretty much an even match the whole game. They got the lucky break and we didn't."
Lake, the Suburban Lakes League champion, defeated Oak Harbor in a shootout, 1-0, last Saturday at Central Catholic to advance to the first regional tournament in team history.
Liberty-Benton (20-0) scored with about 24 minutes left in the match.
"We couldn't play the ball," Hoffman said of the score. "They had a corner kick and the ball got knocked around a few times and just sort of went in the net."
Lake senior keeper Kelsey McCloskey had 16 saves. The Flyers had 12 shots on goal.
"We had a couple nice shots, just right up and over the net," Hoffman said. "Most of our balls were on target, but there wasn't a whole lot behind them."
The match figured to be tight, as both teams entered outscoring their previous three tournament foes by a 9-0 margin. Lake advanced with a 5-0 win over Swanton and a 3-0 win over Delta before beating Oak Harbor last weekend.
Liberty-Benton and Lake are both members of the MSSL, with the Eagles handing the Flyers 3-1 and 5-1 setbacks in league play.
"It was a great season," Hoffman said. "Nobody ever gave us any credit for anything, for even being a decent team. As the season got going and we started to put some wins together, even after an SLL championship we didn't get a whole lot of respect. I told the kids we have to earn everyone's respect every game. Every time we have a setback, getting that respect back takes even longer."
The Flyers had a strong defense all season, led by freshman center Hannah Cox and sophomore outside defenders Emily Whitmore and Tara Preble.
"They have the whole package," Hoffman said. "They're fast, smart players and they know what to do with the ball and defend."
The coach added that the tournament run made by Lake, which will have 13 players return from this year's team, "was huge for our program."
"At tonight’s game, it was pretty much a packed crowd for us and Liberty-Benton," Hoffman said. "The number of youth girls in our rec program and travel program, there must have been 20-25 little girls at the game. This success has had a huge influence on our youth program and our school as well. It was a great season and I look forward to many more years at Lake."