SANDUSKY — Known all season as a prolific offensive team, 10th-ranked Oak Harbor found itself being on the defensive against third-ranked Gates Mills Hawken on Tuesday night in a Division III girls soccer state semifinal at Strobel Field.
The Rockets fell behind the Hawks 2-0 halfway through the first half and found themselves playing in a game of catch-up the rest of the night.
Hawken never let up and never lost the lead en route to a decisive 4-1 victory over Oak Harbor.
The Hawks will play in the state championship match for the first time in school history on Friday at noon at Columbus Crew Stadium. Hawken will face Hamilton Badin, a 2-1 double-overtime winner over Fenwick in a state semifinal.
"I'm proud of the girls," Oak Harbor coach Renee Goldstein said, moments after huddling with her team after the defeat. "We lost five starters from last year and to come in this year and play this well with four freshmen, I think the girls did a good job. They had an amazing season.
"Obviously, they're very disappointed because they wanted that last game, but I told them they should be proud of what they did and where they got."
The Rockets (19-2-1) entered their first state semifinal game in school history owning a 16-game win streak. They'd thrived as an offensive force, averaging better than six goals per game. Only three times all season had they been held to two goals or less.
However, the Rockets hadn't faced a team ranked as high as the Hawks nor had they dealt with a team as skilled as Hawken, a team that mirrored the Rockets in speed and quickness.
"Their speed was exceptional," Goldstein said. "They were getting to every ball. We'd try to make a pass and they were stepping in front of us. They did everything right.
"They were quick, had nice ballhandling skills, and worked well together."
The Rockets, who hadn't given up more than three goals in a game all season, gave up two goals against the Hawks during the first 20 minutes of the match.
Freshman Maggie Canitia and senior Mackenzie Lesnick scored a goal apiece to give Hawken (16-1-5) the early advantage and put Oak Harbor in the unusual position of playing from behind.
Rockets freshman Alexa Weis closed the gap with a goal late in the first half to make it a 2-1 halftime score.
Tthe Hawks’ defense didn't allow another goal during the remaining 40 minutes, while Katherine Zalar and Bianca Medancic added to the lead with a goal apiece.
Oak Harbor goalie Ivy Martin, who made a half-dozen impressive saves in the game, found herself much more busy than she'd been in a match all season.
"They were definitely very good competition," Martin said. "Offensively, they were very quick to the ball. They didn't take a lot of stops, then kick it. They were one touch and then kicked it away."
Hawks coach Stan Shulman said the key for his team was keeping the Rockets’ offense in check.
"We knew they scored 130 goals, which means they were dangerous," he said. "It was very important to make sure our defense played well today, and they did. We know we could score. We scored 90 goals this season."
Nonetheless, the Rockets' future appears bright, considering most of their starters will be back in uniform next season.