Clay's Alexis Donnelly and St. Ursula's Megan Gallagher try to gain possession in last night's district semifinal match.
The St. Ursula and Northview soccer teams reached familiar territory by passing similarly stiff challenges last night in district semifinals.
The Arrows and Wildcats will face off for the fifth straight time in the Division I finals after recording tight victories. St. Ursula knocked off undefeated Clay 2-1 and Northview beat Sylvania rival Southview 3-1.
The Wildcats (16-1-2) will be looking to beat the Arrows (10-7-2) for the first time in four consecutive tries in the district final Saturday at Anthony Wayne at 2 p.m.
Clay took the initial lead in the first semifinal but St. Ursula countered with two unanswered goals as the Arrows knocked out the Eagles (15-1-3).
"It's been a bit of a down year," St. Ursula coach Bruce Peterson said. "But if we are going to lose we'd rather have it be in the regular season. Our objective was to find which kids are combining well and then execute. The kids worked their butts off tonight."
Clay, which finished ranked 10th in the state coaches poll, tallied the prettiest goal of the night on senior Ashley Ciesielczyk's header. The Eagles beat St. Ursula 2-0 in the regular season.
Northview s Brooke Taylor (6), Paige Maroney (4) and Taylor Delaney celebrate a goal.
"It's been a storybook season," Clay coach Scott Warner said. "Hats off to our kids for the season they had. We knew we had a good chance. But we have a lot of respect for St. Ursula. They keep bringing it year after year."
After 40 scoreless minutes, the teams exchanged goals over the first 1:03 of the second half.
St. Ursula senior Alyssa Niese then scored the game-winner with good hustle. Niese took a pass from senior Kelsey Kovacs right in front of Clay goalie Jessica Dolt. Niese knocked it past Dolt to make it 2-1 with 23:51 left in the game.
"Niese has had so many big goals for us over the last four years," Peterson said. "She is just steady. She's not flashy. But when you need something special she always does it."
Ciesielczyk scored on a perfect header off of a cross from senior Amanda Watson 29 seconds into the second half.
"That was an amazing play," Warner said. "You couldn't draw it up any better than that. Amanda couldn't have threaded the needle any better and Ashley was where we needed her to be."
But St. Ursula answered just 33 seconds later on senior Esther Bryant's lofted shot that got over the keeper's head.
"At the half we told them to give us a good first 10 minutes to set the tempo," Peterson said. "Little did we know both teams would score. We showed a lot of heart to get back in it."
Warner said his team may have relaxed a bit.
"That came back to bite us," he said.
St. Ursula freshman goalie Deanna Gall made the save of the game on a point-blank shot with 10:15 remaining.
Northview, the No. 7 team in the state, fell behind Southview (11-6-2) early on an own goal. But the Wildcats tied it midway through the first half on senior Taylor Delaney's goal. Sophomore Paige Maroney tallied the game winner and then assisted on junior Brooke Taylor's marker with 20 minutes left.
"We came here with a lot of goals and one was to win district," Northview coach Rick Burgin said. "We weren't going to fall tonight."
Southview, which tied Northview in the regular season, took the lead early when Northview scored on itself. Cougar junior forward Emily Beddoes beat a Wildcat defender and her shot deflected off Northview's Noel Luther, finding the net.
"We knew it was early and we knew we could come back," Maroney said. "We were fired up. We're not used to tying. We used it as motivation."
Northview knotted it three minutes later when Delaney scored on a cross pass from Taylor. Stephanie Rentschler had the initial pass on the play that made it 1-1.
Maroney converted on a pass from junior Chelsea Ulmer for a 2-1 lead.
"We really work on playing the ball on the flank with people open in the middle," Maroney said. "We like to keep our forwards wide."
Maroney then assisted on Taylor's goal that was nearly identical to one made by Ulmer.
"We like to play off one another instead of going for the home run," Burgin said. "That's when magic happens."
Southview netminder Kelsey Schmidt made a handful of saves as Northview continuously mounted pressure in the second half. Wildcat goalie Kelsey McCoy kept it a one-goal lead with a solid save midway through the second half.
Burgin said his team is looking forward to getting another shot at the Arrows in the final.
"We plan on getting through to regionals," Maroney said. "We plan on pressuring them."
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