One of the Liberty Girls Soccer team’s themes for the OHSAA playoffs was ‘”Act like you’ve been there before, leave it all on the field and enjoy every moment”. Despite falling a few ticks of the clock short of competing in a state championship in MAPFRE Stadium, the Pattys lived up to that motto and made their families, friends, school and community proud of a historic run to the Division I State Semifinal for the second time in three years.
In an exact rematch of opponent and location to the 2015 Final Four, Liberty squared off with a 20-1 Loveland team that was ranked #2 in the state and had allowed only three goals all season entering the match.
Despite the heavy underdog status, some injuries to key players and a visiting crowd that included four buses of students and over 600 total Tiger fans, the Lady Patriots entered the match loose and ready, and after absorbing significant pressure in the first 15 minutes, took control of possession for the balance of the first half, generating several quality scoring opportunities but with nothing to show on the scoreboard.
In the second half, Loveland began to get more of the ball and press the attack, but as has been common on the playoff run, the Pattys back line of Olivia Sensky, Sydney Weaver, Mara Follmer and Caitlin Curmode stood firm and goalkeeper Riley Cartwright made critical saves to keep the score 0-0.
In the 61st minute, Liberty would take the lead on a goal by Laura Bichsel after a scramble and slamming home a loose ball in the left side of the Loveland goal. Following the goal, Loveland, a team with great team speed, strength and size who had scored almost 80% of their goals on set pieces, threw extra players forward and brought extreme pressure on the Pattys. On a resulting corner with less than four minutes left, the Tigers equalized and regulation ended in a 1-1- tie.
As the first overtime progressed, both sides created attacking opportunities with a slight edge to Loveland, but the Pattys overcame the disappointment of the late goal allowed in regulation and battled to try to get the winner. As the clock wound down in the first overtime, Loveland scored the heartbreaker with 1:17 left on a cross from the right flank that somehow found its way through defending traffic to the feet of Loveland senior Collen Swift. The Loveland veteran calmly finished the chance and ended the match to the dismay of the Pattys and their loyal fans who had traveled 1.5 hours to Centerville’s Legacy Field.
Liberty ends the season 13-6-3, having gone on an amazing 10-2 run after a 3-4-3 start, overcoming many challenges and obstacles to win their 4th consecutive District Championship, 2nd Regional Championship and 2nd State Final 4 Appearance in the last 3 years. Over 170 D1 teams started the tournament state wide. All credit goes to the players and especially the seniors who made a commitment as a unit to turn things around when many other teams may have folded.
Thank you ladies for your effort, congratulations on an outstanding season, and a special tribute to our seniors who cap off the most successful four year run in program history. You all have continued a tradition of excellence that ranks as one of the best in the state and region. GO PATTYS!