SANDUSKY — Only No. 1-ranked Walsh Jesuit stood in the way of defending Division II state runner-up St. Ursula Academy making a return appearance to the state championship match.
A victory for the Arrows over the Warriors on Tuesday night would secure a spot in the finals for a St. Ursula team that had encountered its share of ups and downs during the season before coming together for another strong tournament run.
However, a goal by Walsh Jesuit sophomore Halle Stelbasky in the second half of a Division II state semifinal led to the Warriors to a 1-0 victory over the Arrows at Firelands Regional Medical Center Stadium.
Stelbasky's goal, which came off an assist from senior captain Sandra Yu C, made the difference in a rematch of last year's state semifinal, which the Arrows won 1-0 in an overtime shootout.
"That's a very talented team over there, and they got their goal and we didn't get ours," St. Ursula coach Chris Black said, following the loss to undefeated Walsh Jesuit (20-0-2).
"They probably thought they were the better team last year. Maybe we were the better team this year or maybe we were not, but we're 1-1. Most teams in the state or the country would love to be .500 against Walsh Jesuit over the last two years. We're not happy with it, but we'll take it."
Stelbasky broke the scoreless match when she took a pass from Yu C and booted it from 20 yards out into the back of the net with 30 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in the match. Her 14th goal of the season ripped past the outstretched hands of St. Ursula goalie Sydney Yeager.
That proved to be more than enough against the Arrows, who struggled to generate any offense against the team that entered the tournament favored to end up as state champion.
"When you get this far it's all about just surviving," Walsh Jesuit coach Dino McIntyre said. "The girls found a way today. At halftime we told them [St. Ursula] wanted it more and we needed to pick it up and we did.
"In the second half we pretty much dominated."
The second-half score forced the Arrows (13-6-3) out of their game plan of trying to slow the pace and attempt to limit the Warriors’ offensive opportunities.
St. Ursula preferred not to get into an up-tempo game with the top team, which had outscored its tournament opponents 20-1 this fall.
Stelbasky's goal forced St. Ursula to come out of that defensive game plan.
However, the wide-open play didn't lead to an Arrows team transforming into more of a threat offensively against the Warriors, who seemed more comfortable playing in space their opponents. Walsh Jesuit dominated the ball in the second half and kept the action on St. Ursula's half of the field for much of the second half.
"Once we got the goal you knew what they had planned to do — to slow us down and just kick it down the field — they weren't going to do anymore," McIntyre said. "They weren't going to do that anymore because they had to try and create opportunities."
The score went scoreless during the first 40 minutes of play as defense was priority No. 1 early in the match for both teams.
The Arrows and Warriors made it clear during the first 40 minutes they would prefer to play it safe than take many chances.
Yet, the Warriors came out of the first half owning a 10-3 edge on shots, including a 3-2 shots-on-goal advantage.
St. Ursula's Jordyn Greer came out of the first half with the best chance at producing a goal. The Arrows' top scoring threat fired a shot from 15 yards out from the right side of the goal that was caught by Walsh Jesuit goalie Libby Grace with 19 minutes remaining in the first half.
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.