BELLEFONTAINE — Before Oct. 5, Lehman Catholic hadn’t lost a conference game since the Western Ohio Soccer League formed in 2014. Anna defeated the Cavaliers by one goal that night, which earned the Rockets the WOSL title outright.
Lehman senior Molly Safreed and the rest of the Cavaliers hadn’t forgotten that and were ready for some payback on Thursday. The fact that the payback would be in a district final was even better.
After a scoreless first half, Safreed scored two goals to spark Lehman’s 4-0 win in a Division III district final at AcuSport Stadium.
“Revenge,” Safreed said about the win. “For sure, it was revenge. We were disappointed after that first game. But, we watched a lot of films and we were ready.”
Lehman improves to 13-4-1 and will play Cincinnati Madeira on Tuesday at a site to be determined.
The district title was Lehman’s first after finishing runner-up the last two seasons.
“Our motto this year was no more silver,” Lehman coach Jeremy Lorenzo said. “We wanted gold this year. We probably have talked about it so much the kids are tired of hearing it.
“… We have been in these games before. Some of the things that happened tonight — those are the things that have to happen if you are going to win these games. We are healthy and playing our best soccer right now. We knew we needed 110 percent effort from these kids tonight and that is what we got.”
It was the first loss of the season for Anna, which finishes 17-1. Anna coach Mike Noll said he was proud of the team’s effort and perfect regular-season performance.
“The girls did great,” Noll said. “We’re losing five seniors, but we’re going to gain another 14 freshman, and the majority of this team is still young. We’ll be here next year. I’m not concerned with that; we’ll be here next year and the year after and keep getting better.”
Anna had allowed only two goals during the season before Thursday’s loss. Noll said Thursday’s loss started on Monday night when goalie Savanna Hostetler was kicked in the head during a 7-0 win over Brookville. Hostetler had concussion symptoms on Tuesday and couldn’t play on Thursday.
Noll said the injury had a bigger effect on the team than just keeping a starting goalkeeper out of the lineup.
“It dropped the morale quick,” Noll said. “It’s like a football team losing their quarterback.”
Anna freshman Brielle Collier took over at goalie. Though Lehman’s offense had the ball most of the first half and had more shots on goal than Anna, Collier came up with several saves to keep it scoreless at halftime.
“She’s our first-year JV goalie, and to have to step into a district final is tough, especially when she had very little time to prepare for it,” Noll said. “I think she did excellent and helped keep us in it in the first half. She did great.”
Lehman, which outshot Anna 35-8 in the game, took control quickly in the second half.
After Grace Monnin rocketed a shot off Collier, it deflected to Safreed, who was in perfect position in front of the goal for the follow. She tapped it in with 35:28 on the clock.
“It is unfortunate that Anna’s starting goalie couldn’t play,” Lorenzo said. “Their backup goalie did a good job. But, we talked about wanting to make sure we followed shots. And Molly was right there to put the ball in.”
As soon as it went in, Safreed jumped into the arms of her teammates to celebrate.
“Just a relief I think (to get a goal on the board),” Safreed said.
Anna had a chance to tie it with about 28 minutes left when Rylie Edwards broke away from Lehman defenders and went one-on-one with Lehman goalkeeper Camille Brown. Just as Edwards launched a shot, Brown plunged to the ground in front of the ball for a save.
“When the ball was first kicked, I thought Camille (Brown) would get to the ball (first),” Lorenzo said. “The Anna girls did a great job closing on the ball. Then, that was just an amazing save by Brown.”
Coming out of the goal to challenge the shot, Brown reached out with her arm and nearly caught the shot. The ball deflected a few yards behind her and she quickly fell on it.
“I just knew I had to make the save,” Brown said. “I saw the ball behind and just jumped on it right away.”
Safreed rocketed a shot in from 30 yards out after getting a ball from Ava Behr with about 26 minutes left to put Lehman ahead 2-0.
“Really, the feeling was just a relief,” Safreed said.
At the 23:02 mark, Samantha Edwards maneuvered her way around several Anna defenders and hit a shot that was just wide, but Lindsey Magoteaux was right there for the deflection to make it 3-0.
A few minutes later, Grace Olding took a ball from Lyndsey Jones from 20 yards out and fired a shot into the goal to make it 4-0.
“It was great to see Grace hit that shot,” Lorenzo said. “She is a really good offensive player even though she probably hasn’t scored as much this year as she would like.”
Noll said Anna’s season couldn’t have happened without the leadership of Edwards and fellow seniors Emily Albers, Savanna Manger, Abby Gaydosh and Ashley Heitkamp.
“Last year, we only lost two games all season, but this year we had a perfect season,” Noll said. “They became a team. The girls stepped up. Last year there were no seniors on the team, and this year they’ve learned to play very well together and bond. It’s made a team. It’s made our job pretty easy, actually.”