BROOKVILLE — Anna coach Mike Noll didn’t think there was a talent gap in a Division II district final on Thursday at Brookville’s Memorial Stadium. The big gap according to the fourth-year coach was experience playing on synthetic field turf.
The Knights, which were ranked No. 1 in Div. II in the final state coaches association poll, beat the Rockets 2-0 to advance to a regional semifinal against Dayton Oakwood next week.
The Rockets won their first district title in program history last season and were hoping for a second. Noll said the costly problem was unfamiliarity with the speed of how the ball moves on turf. Thursday’s game on Brookville’s turf field (which was installed last summer) was only Anna’s sixth on an artificial surface this season.
“We just don’t play on turf fields; we don’t get the option to much,” Noll said. “That’s all Alter plays on. So it’s a disadvantage to us to play on turf throughout the tournament.
“… The speed of the ball is faster, about four times faster. It’s harder to control than when you’re used to grass. They were able to control it more than we were because we’re not comfortable on turf.”
The Rockets, which where were the district’s No. 2 seed, finish 16-1-1 overall and outscored opponents 115-4 this season. Anna will lose 10 seniors to graduation, including Taylor Noll, who is the program’s all-time scoring leader. She passed 100 career goals earlier this season.
The squad will also lose goalkeeper Savanna Hostetler, who became the state’s career shutouts leader earlier this month. She finishes with 55 career shutouts.
Nine of the 10 seniors are four-year varsity players.
“They did a great job the last four years,” Noll said. “We’ve only lost two regular-season games in four years. They did outstanding.”
Noll took over as the program’s coach when Taylor Noll, his daughter, was entering high school four years ago.
“I’ve been blessed with it,” Noll said.
Anna had given up two goals all season, but it didn’t take the Knights long to match that total.
Anna Sweeny scored the game’s first goal with 29:11 left in the first half. She broke free in the middle and sent in a shot that bounced down into the goal after hitting the top crossbar.
Lauren Schimpf sent a dart into the back left corner on an assist from Lauren Miller with 18:54 left to boost the Knights’ lead to 2-0.
Alter (17-1-1) unofficially had six shots on goal in the first half while Anna had two. Alter unofficially had five shots in the second half while Anna had two.
Though the Western Ohio Soccer League champion Rockets will lose a large group of seniors, Noll is optimistic about the program’s future. Many of the squad’s nonstarters played significant time this season in the team’s lopsided wins.
“We’re not going to be skipping too many beats,” Noll said. “We’re still going to be strong the next four or five years. I don’t see us really slowing down. We had an excellent 10 freshman come in this year and we’ll have five seniors and nine juniors next year. We’re not losing much power; we’ll still have plenty of power, speed and talent out on the field. We’ll be back here.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.