Tri-captains, from left to right, Ben Bryant, Sam Kuehnle and Jack Jamieson have led Ottawa Hills to its first state title game.
COLUMBUS For the Ottawa Hills boys soccer team, the storybook season has reached its final chapter.
The Green Bears boarded a bus and traveled to Crew Stadium yesterday, then worked out there for the first time in preparation for today s Division III state championship game.
But coach Greg McElroy said the magnitude of what his team already has accomplished and what it could achieve with a win over Worthington Christian in today s game, which kicks off at noon is still a bit of a dream.
I think it will sink in when we see the cathedral, McElroy said before his team left for Columbus. Right now it s a little overwhelming. But we ll do our best to get ready for it.
The Green Bears enter their first-ever state title game with a 19-3 overall record, including a string of 13 consecutive victories. That streak includes six straight wins in the state tournament, during which Ottawa Hills has outscored its opponents 24-1.
It s been a dream come true [to reach the state finals], senior tri-captain Jack Jamieson admitted. But it s also been our goal since the preseason and the first scrimmages. This is what we ve been working for.
The Green Bears road to the championship game included just one close contest: a 1-0 victory in the district semifinal over Toledo Christian, the only Division III team to defeat Ottawa Hills this season.
The Green Bears path also included just two state-ranked teams in Bluffton, ranked sixth in the poll before OH won 3-1 in the district final, and their state semifinal match Tuesday against Gates Mills Hawken, the top-ranked team in the state.
We felt that [early in the tournament], if we played our game, we were the favorites, Jamieson said. But that s how we feel going into any game, including the game against Hawken.
The Green Bears handed Hawken a 3-0 defeat, causing Hawks senior Noah Whitehead to say, [Ottawa Hills] was fabulous. They re the best team we ve seen this year probably the best team we ve seen in two years.
Those words were music to McElroy s ears.
I think our kids have believed they are a good team all year, McElroy said. But each win that we earn validates that.
Ottawa Hills opponent today, Worthington Christian, was ranked second in the final state coaches poll. The Warriors advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 double-overtime win over Cincinnati Mariemont on Tuesday.
But having to face another strong opponent won t keep Ottawa Hills from dreaming of a happy ending to this storybook season.
Sure, it s a cool feeling playing a state championship game and playing in a professional [soccer] stadium, Jamieson said. But our goal is to win a state final and to win in a professional stadium.
We need to put in a lot of hard work and to put intense pressure on the other team. We also need to possess the ball whenever we can. If we can put pressure on the other team and keep the ball at our feet, the other team will have to adjust to us while we play our game.