SANDUSKY — It took suffocating defense, stellar goaltending, and the usual spectacular effort from forward Maddy Williams for the Perrysburg girls soccer team to earn the right to play for a state championship.
Behind a true team effort the Yellow Jackets upended defending state champion Strongsville 2-0 in a Division I state semifinal before about 750 spectators at Cedar Point Stadium on Tuesday night.
Williams sparked undefeated and top-ranked Perrysburg (22-0-0) with two goals over the first 19 minutes.
Perrysburg senior goalie Chloe Buehler and her defenders were strong throughout. Buehler made eight saves, including five in the second half, to post the shutout as No. 1 Perrysburg held off a second-half surge by No. 2 Strongsville (19-2-0).
“This is amazing,” Perrysburg co-head Jorge Diaz said. “I'm proud of our entire team. This was a big challenge. Now we want to win the whole thing. We have a wonderful goalie and great defense. Maddy, she has taken care of finishing like this all season.”
The Yellow Jackets advance to play Pickerington North or Mason in the state title game Friday at 7 p.m. at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Williams, who will play at Purdue next season, now has 47 goals this season as the Yellow Jackets have outscored foes 107-5.
“One more game to go,” Williams said. “We're doing great so far. It feels like a dream. My team deserves this so much. We've worked so hard for this. I'm so excited for the next game.”
Williams took advantage of a Strongsville turnover to strike in the 11th minute. The miscue occurred inside the Mustangs' box and Williams sent a low roller past Strongsville goalie Sarah Baskey.
Williams, who failed to score for the first time this season in Perrysburg's 2-0 win over Medina in the regional final on Saturday, said it motivated her.
“I know I need to keep pressuring and I will get my chances,” Williams said. “It ignited everything.”
Williams struck again as she scored to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute. Williams found some space and ran free. She then came up with a terrific shot across her body with her left foot to beat Baskey, who was replaced late in the first half.
“We had to come out tough,” Perrysburg co-head coach Margaret Bernard said. “Maddy came up big. She's a great player and a great asset to our team. Obviously she stepped up.”
Buehler said the early goals lifted a huge weight off her shoulders.
“It was an awesome team effort,” said Buehler, who will play at Penn State. “We set the goal in August for as a state championship and nothing less. And we're on track for that. Our defense was so good. We took it to them.”
The Perrysburg defense clamped down in the second half and most of the five shots were from long range.
Perrysburg had nine shots overall and six on net. Strongsville put 14 shots toward the Yellow Jacket net and eight on goal.
“We scrapped,” Strongsville coach Jon Fenton said. “The girls didn't stop. We kept getting opportunities.”
It was Strongville's 11th appearance in the final four and Perryburg's first.
Felton, who has led the Mustangs to four state titles since 1998, said Williams is the best player he has ever seen.
“There is a girl on a team in New Mexico that we played this year and I told the coach, 'That's the best girl I've ever seen up front,' ” Fenton said. “And after this game, I've changed my mind.”
Felton said Perrysburg has every attribute to “solidly” win a state championship.
“They have a keeper that can make the big saves,” he said. “They have a defense that can condense and stop you. You have to shoot from outside the box. And then you can throw it to Maddy Williams. She takes the team on her back.”
After the game, Bernard was being tossed into the air by her players as the Yellow Jackets' fans chanted “Hip, hip, Jorge!” in honor of Diaz.
“I'm excited for the girls,” Diaz said. “We really wanted to go to Columbus. And I think we have all the tools to make it happen.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.