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MILLBURY — Anthony Wayne has been climbing the girls soccer tournament ladder the past four years, and now the Generals have reached the highest rung in the program’s history.
That step was reached Tuesday night, when AW (14-3-2) got a goal in each half to defeat fifth-ranked Notre Dame 2-0 in a Division I regional semifinal at Lake High School.
Senior Chloe Brown tallied off a rebound with 28:05 left in the first half, and Kendall Schmucker scored off a feed from fellow junior Abby Allen with 20:09 left in the game for insurance.
PHOTO GALLERY: Anthony Wayne tops Notre Dame 2-0
Anthony Wayne had been eliminated from the D-I tourney in the sectional finals in 2010, in the district finals in 2011, and last season lost 3-0 to eventual state champion Perrysburg in a regional semifinal.
“It’s our nine seniors,” Generals coach Lori Williams said of earning the next rung. “They’re the heart and soul of this team, and they’re something special. They keep willing this team on to the next level.
“It’s the playoffs. You lose and you go home. The girls just had that mentality that they were going to be something special today.”
The Generals’ bid to reach a first state final four will come Saturday at 3 p.m. at Sandusky Perkins High School, where they will play Rocky River Magnificat (15-4-1) in a regional final. Magnificat defeated Medina 2-0 in another regional semifinal Tuesday.
Having one earlier scoring chance denied, AW — which played to a 2-2 tie with Notre Dame Oct. 5 — took the lead six minutes later. The Generals’ Jessie Mattimoe sent a header goalward from 10 feet out in the sixth minute, but Eagles goalkeeper Leah Kirk leaped to make a two-handed grab just under the crossbar. But Kirk was not so fortunate the next time Anthony Wayne put on the offensive heat.
After a point-blank try from AW’s Kelsey Combs hit the crossbar, the ball rebounded directly to Brown, who sent a quick, right-footed effort into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
“It got jumbled around and then it came back, and I just tried to hit it back toward the goal so one of my teammates could get a rebound and finish,” Brown said. “I didn’t even know it went in until everyone tackled me.”
Notre Dame had two prime scoring opportunities early in the second half.
Kassidy Rejent, who scored the only goal in the Eagles’ 1-0 win over Northview in last Saturday’s district final, sent a left-footer from 20 feet out off the right post in the 44th minute.
“That’s a shot that went in on Saturday, and today it trickled out,” Eagles coach Chip Smith said. “If she scores that, it’s probably a different game. But, that’s life. Soccer’s a cruel, cruel sport sometimes.”
In the 53rd minute, a hustling Dani Johnson got off a diving header from just outside the six-yard box, but it missed wide left.
Those missed chances loomed large near the midway mark of the second half, thanks to the hustle of Allen.
On an AW break, Allen outraced the ball to the right corner, and sent a perfectly placed centering pass to Schmucker, who beat Kirk from point-blank range straight on for a commanding 2-0 Generals lead.
“I just wanted to get there because this whole season we’ve been working for our seniors,” Allen said of her hustle play. “We know how much they want it. That goal was all Kendall. She worked hard to get there, and she had a beautiful finish.”
Schmucker shared the credit.
“That was a great cross,” Schmucker said of Allen’s pass. “I just sprinted to the ball and got there before the keeper. That was big because 2-0 is much harder to come back from.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. They’re a really physical team, and a great team, but we just came out ready to win.”
For the most part, the Generals were able to play defensive soccer from there, denying the Eagles any dangerous breakaways.
Notre Dame (16-2-2) was playing in its first regional semifinal.
“They were really organized tonight defensively,” Smith said of AW. “They did a great job of not giving us those really clean chances that we’ve gotten before.
“We did have a couple chances, but we couldn’t put them in the back of the net. At this level, you’ve got to score goals.”