Chloe The Goalie a rock for Jackets


COLUMBUS — After the state cham­pi­on­ship was won, af­ter play­ers formed a hu­man pyr­a­mid to hold the big tro­phy aloft, af­ter a Lam­beau-type leap by the en­tire team into the stu­dent sec­tion, af­ter “We Are The Cham­pi­ons” blared over the sound sys­tem, af­ter Per­rys­burg High’s girls etched their names into Ohio soc­cer lore …

After a 23-0 sea­son, af­ter hav­ing out­scored op­po­nents 108-5, af­ter an as­tound­ing 48 goals by se­nior sen­sa­tion Maddy Wil­liams, and af­ter a whop­ping 14 matches won by four or more goals … af­ter all that, there is this.

The Yel­low Jack­ets com­peted for 1,840 min­utes this sea­son. They trailed for just four of them. Amaz­ing!

In other words, as good as ev­ery­body thought Chloe Buehler was in goal, it’s pos­si­ble no­body re­ally knew for sure. They do now.

P-burg won the Divi­sion I state crown Fri­day night, beat­ing Ma­son 1-0 at Crew Sta­dium. Wil­liams — who else? — scored the lone goal with a lit­tle more than 15 min­utes left in the first half on a pen­alty kick.

Be­fore and af­ter that it was all Buehler, who as re­cently as eight months ago was ly­ing in a hos­pi­tal bed af­ter back sur­gery. Ask her about it and her eyes get wet.

She was steely eyed against Ma­son, a team that en­tered the ti­tle game 20-1-1 but some­how un­ranked. Per­rys­burg was No. 1. But, man, Ma­son was quick and te­na­cious and no stranger to forc­ing the ac­tion. The dif­fer­ence be­tween No. 1 and un­ranked on this night was wa­fer thin. A post here, a cross­bar there. The dif­fer­ence was 1-0. The dif­fer­ence was Chloe The Goalie.

“I’m not sur­prised by it,” said Yel­low Jack­ets co-coach Mar­ga­ret Ber­nard. “But Chloe came through in a way I could not have imag­ined. That is the most pres­sure we’ve faced all sea­son, ab­so­lutely. And she made phe­nom­e­nal saves left and right.

“At the heart of a great keeper is fear­less­ness. We all saw that to­night.”

The of­fi­cial statis­tics sheet cred­ited Buehler with nine saves. It only seemed like 20 or 25 to the Per­rys­burg faith­ful that held its breath on ev­ery Ma­son charge.

They should not have wor­ried. Their first state soc­cer crown and the school’s third Ohio ti­tle in any sport was in good hands.

“This might sound funny, but I’ve been play­ing for go­ing on 12 years, and I re­ally think soc­cer is what I’m meant to do,” Buehler said. “I get ner­vous, sure. I feel the pres­sure. But I love it. I do drills all the time against Maddy, the best scorer in the state. It pre­pares me for any­thing.”

And she needed ev­ery­thing against plucky Ma­son.

“They were awe­some,” Buehler said of the Comets. “They pos­sessed the ball. They brought a lot of pres­sure. I’m not go­ing to lie. It was stress­ful. But, wow, it was fun.”

Se­nior Madi­son Mel­nick tried her best to make it fun for Ma­son, but she was robbed by Buehler no fewer than three times. On the last of them, Mel­nick got a per­fect pass up high and was poised for a header into the net, but be­fore she could launch the shot, Buehler flew out of the crease and reached above her shorter op­po­nent to swipe the ball in mid­air. That was with 3:45 to play, and Chloe would make two more fine saves be­fore it was over.

Ear­lier, a Ma­son shot ric­o­cheted high, and Buehler leaped to get a hand on the ball. It car­omed off her paw, into the cross­bar and back onto the field of play.

It was a mas­ter­ful per­for­mance from start to fin­ish.

Fol­low­ing her back sur­gery, Buehler missed some early sea­son games. She did not play against Gahanna Lin­coln when the Jack­ets — gasp — fell be­hind 1-0 and did not pull even for all of four min­utes.

Chloe The Goalie never trailed this sea­son. She al­lowed but two goals. She’ll take her tal­ents to Penn State, and the next time she sees Maddy Wil­liams on the pitch it will be as the en­emy. Wil­liams is headed for Big Ten ri­val Pur­due.

On Fri­day night, though, with the crowd roar­ing and sing­ing the P-burg fight song along with the play­ers, Wil­liams and Buehler were hug­ging and cry­ing tears of joy.

It was no se­cret the Jack­ets had the best of­fen­sive player in Ohio.

Turns out they had the best goalie too.

Who knew?

Con­tact Blade sports col­um­nistDave Hack­en­berg at:dhack@the­blade.comor 419-724-6398.