SIDNEY — Lehman Catholic’s girls soccer team didn’t waste its last shot at a Western Ohio Soccer League title.
After losing to Anna in defacto WOSL championship matches the last three years, the Cavaliers shut down the high-scoring Rockets on Saturday at Sidney Memorial Stadium and won 1-0 to secure their first league title since 2016.
It’s the last season for the Cavaliers (13-1-1) in the WOSL. The school will be joining the Three Rivers Conference for all sports next season.
“I think it means the world to them,” Lehman coach Josh Duncan said of the squad’s players. “They put this game on the calendar from the very get-go. We had to postpone it (due to a COVID-19 outbreak in late September) and this (game) was up in the air for a while.
“We were happy we finally got to be able to play this. They didn’t want to let the last chance at a WOSL title go by.”
It was a stellar defensive performance by Lehman. Anna (13-3) had scored 80 total goals in the 15 games it had played before Saturday but struggled just to move the ball down field and get shots on goal against Lehman.
“We know we have the speed and finishing abilities up to, but the big question for us this year was, ‘How can we stop teams defensively?’” Duncan, who is in his first year as head coach, said. “… We’ve worked really hard on defense. They’ve all bought into it; they all know to get shutouts it takes all 11 girls working, not just the back four.
“They’ve bought into it. They do the dirty side of soccer well now, which is the defending side. We had the attacking side already good, so we’re set.”
Duncan said it was the seventh shutout of the season for junior goalkeeper Heidi Toner, who has about 75 saves. He said Toner has greatly improved since her sophomore season, which was her first as a starter.
“To see her progress from last year to now, it’s amazing,” Duncan said. “I think she’s got a big future ahead of her. She’s a big leader.”
Duncan credited senior defender Evie Olding, junior defender Ella Monnin and senior defender Anna Cianciolo for helping lead the defensive improvement as well as sophomore defender Kailey Higgins, who he said played very well on Saturday.
“We heard all week (Anna was) going to target Kailey Higgins, so we made some adjustments, and Kailey took that to heart and used that for motivation,” Duncan said. “The whole back four has been awesome. I haven’t changed them much; they’ve just stayed the back four as a unit the whole year. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Lehman had the only breakaway of the game. Senior forward Lindsey Magoteaux got behind Anna’s midfielders, took a pass and raced to the goal in the game’s 16th minute.
Magoteaux dribbled up on the right side of the goal. Anna goalkeeper Brielle Collier dove on her knees near the corner of the goal and another defender raced to assist, but Magoteaux sent a shot over both into the net.
“That’s her bread and butter,” Duncan said. “Running into space with the ball, dribbling the ball, and having the composure to finish.
“That’s something we’ve worked with her a lot on this year, and not just her, but all our front three. We’ve focused on finishing under pressure, because we had a lot of chances last year where she could have had a lot more goals. We’ve made it a little bit easier for her, and when she gets in that situation, she’s a lot more clinical this year.”
Magoteaux leads the team with 18 goals this season. Noelle Dexter has scored 12 goals this season for the Cavaliers and Eva Dexter has scored 11.
The Cavaliers will now turn their attention toward winning a fourth consecutive district championship. They’ll begin tournament play when they host either Twin Valley South or Middletown Christian in a Division III sectional final on Saturday.
“This was huge; it’s a huge boost for us,” Duncan said. “We’re going to play on turf eventually, and getting this practice on turf and in this environment was good practice for us.”
With a victory on Saturday, Lehman would likely face West Liberty-Salem in a D-III district semifinal early next week. If the Cavaliers win that matchup, they’d likely face defending D-III state champ Cincinnati Country Day in a district final on Halloween. Lehman lost 6-1 to Country Day in a regional semifinal last year.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Duncan said. “We’d like to play (Country Day) again. We’d like another shot at them.”
Anna will start tournament play on Saturday when it hosts either Springfield Catholic Central or Springfield Northeastern on Saturday afternoon in a D-III sectional final.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.