Eastwood girls soccer’s run ends just short of the Final Four

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

A sixth consecutive Northern Buckeye Conference title; a fifth district championship and a dramatic tournament run that saw Eastwood compete with some of Ohio’s best ended in a Division III regional final in a loss to Ottawa-Glandorf, 3-0, putting the Eagles just short of the state final four for the second time in three years.
Two years ago, Eastwood fell in a regional final to the Lady Titans, and the prevailing wisdom was that it would be tough for the Eagles to get back there in the near future.
But the doubters were silenced as Julie Cross’ club advanced to the elite eight one year after falling, despite being the No. 1 seed, in the district semifinals.
O-G took control from the outset, scoring just over two minutes into the match when Delaney During came through with a goal.
About 30 minutes later, at the 9:02 mark, Myka Aldrich scored a goal, and the Lady Titans started to distance themselves from Eastwood, which finished the season 16-4-1.
The final goal came when Makenna Siefker connected on a header off a pass from Bri Douglas at the 9:02 mark of the second half.
Throughout the first half, O-G controlled the tempo and the ball, moving it into the Eagles’ zone and getting shots and corner kicks while Eastwood struggled to possess the ball consistently.
But in the second half, the Eagles came out and controlled the ball and the tempo a little bit more and got some shots on goal.
“We told them at halftime that ‘It’s 2-0 right now, but I don’t know what it’s going to be,’” said Cross. “I told them to play together, for each other and for their pride. O-G is a great team, and credit goes to our girls for not giving up.”
The Lady Titans finished with 24 shots, 14 of them on goal. For the season, O-G has pitched 19 shutouts and allowed just six goals. Eastwood goalie Jordan Jensen played very well, finishing with 17 saves.
“It’s tough to plan for a team like that,” said Cross, now in her second year leading the team. “(O-G coach) Michelle (Maag) has done a special job; I think it’s going to be their third straight state title appearance.”
One of the reasons for Eastwood’s success this season came down to its schedule, which was very challenging.
“We played schools like Maumee and Oak Harbor in the conference, and we tied with them for the league title. We scheduled teams like Notre Dame Academy, and our schedule toughened us up,” said Cross. “I think O-G is the best team we’ve seen.”
Two years ago, when Cross was an assistant to Megan Rutherford, Eastwood lost to the Lady Titans, 4-2, at Bowling Green High School. That team, led by the likes of Aubrey Haas, Kenna Souder and Sydney Ameling, among others, won a Northern Buckeye Conference title and a district championship, just like this team did.
Kayla Buehler, a three-year starter who earned four letters, talked about her team and its camaraderie.
“This has probably been my favorite season. The seniors and freshmen are so close. We can all go to each other,” she said. “Our new class worked hard and stepped up.
“After those seniors graduated two years ago, people didn’t think we’d get back,” she added
As one might expect, the team got great support from the community and inspired plenty of girls.
“We have so many kids that want to be like the soccer players. (A tournament run) does things like that,” said Cross. “For the program, this is awesome.
“This team was a phenomenal group – I can’t say enough about them,” Cross said. “We had three captains, and all eight of our seniors led in different ways. They care about the other girls on the team.”
Eastwood, which defeated Apple Creek Waynedale, 2-0, in the regional semifinals, which was preceded by victories over rival Woodmore, 3-2, in overtime; Edison, 7-3 and Toledo Christian, 7-1, fought valiantly in an attempt to win the program’s first regional title.
The win over the Wildcats was probably the most satisfying, seeing as it came against one of the Eagles’ rivals and went into overtime while clinching the district title.
As she’s done for much of the season, Delanie Zura came up in the biggest moments, taking an assist from Saylor King and knocking in a shot from about 15 yards out just under nine minutes into overtime. King scored both of Eastwood’s first two goals.
All in all, there were two ties and one lead change.
Woodmore forward Kelsey Kaylor scored the game’s first goal just over nine minutes into the first half, but it took only 19 seconds for Eastwood to respond, scoring on King’s first goal, which came off an assist from Zura. The goal tied the game at 1-1 with 30:34 still remaining in the first half.
Eagle midfielder Piper Sutton assisted King on her second goal just 22 seconds after the second half kickoff, putting the Eagles up 2-1.
Eastwood held on to its lead for almost 35 minutes, but with 4:53 remaining, Woodmore sophomore midfielder Izzy Helmke fired a 40-yard shot that barely cleared Jordan Jensen’s outstretched arms, tying the game again and later sending it into overtime.
In the win over Waynedale in the regional semifinals, Ava Kachmarik scored a goal with 12:10 remaining in the first half and Josie Appelhans had the second goal with approximately 15 minutes to play. The assists came from King and Sutton.
Jensen was the starting goalie with an alignment of 4-5-1 that looked a lot like a 4-3-3 when the Eagles were on offense. Buehler, Amelia Ward, Reilly Might and the combination of Grace Meter and Kenzie Chaffee protected Jensen and Kaitlin Abbey in net. The midfielders were Sutton, Zura, Kachmarik, Abby Rothenbuhler and Kenna Nelson and King was the forward.
It was a special group of eight seniors in Zura, King, Buehler, Might, Rothenbuhler, Ward, Reese Stewart and Kayla Gedert.
Zura led the team with 23 goals and 12 assists, Sutton had 10 goals and seven assists, King had nine goals and nine assists, Kachmarik scored eight goals and had seven assists and Ward, Karly Wasserman and Grace Abbey scored four goals apiece with Ward and Might assisting on eight goals.
Jensen had 86 saves on 104 shots (83%) and Kaitlin Abbey saved 39 of 49 shots (80%).
The rest of the team included juniors Sam Brooks and Riley Burtchin; sophomores Karly Wasserman, August Rubel, Lexi Hoffman, Kennedy Ameling and Mylah Shoemaker and freshmen Laihela Reardon, Charlotte Brown, Brynn Sheets and Kaitlin Abbey.


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