Winning their first postseason tournament game was not easy for the Talawanda girls’ soccer team but it only gets tougher, now.
They won a nail-biter Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, at home over Amelia, 2-1, scoring the winning goal with 10:25 left in the game and now they face St. Ursula, a team ranked number 1 in the state and in the top 10 nationally.
Tuesday’s game pitted the Braves, the number 15 tournament seed, against a 26st-seeded Amelia team, which the Braves had beaten in the regular season by the same 2-1 score.
This game was tied at 1-1 at halftime.
The Braves scored first in the game as sophomore Erika Wilhelm got an unassisted goal and then Amelia came back to tie it late in the first half.
It stayed that way until the 10:25 mark of the second half when sophomore Rachel Ball scored on a pass from junior Morgan Froehlke.
“Morgan served it right to the back side, just like we practice it,” Coach Steve Thompson said.
Thompson praised Amelia and their effort in the tournament game.
“The game was well played. They are well coached,” he said. “It was a good, aggressive game.”
Ball’s goal not only was the game-winner, it had a bit of historical significance. The boys’ soccer team had won their tournament game 24 hours earlier on the same field and Gabe Rowan scored the final goal in a 6-0 win, giving him the last boys’ soccer goal ever on Bowers field. Now, Ball’s goal for the girls’ team is the last soccer goal ever on the field, as a new high school will be opening next year.
Scoring the last soccer goal on Bowers Field was “crazy,” Ball said, adding, “I’m happy we won by it.”
Thompson said a big part of their postseason win was the second-half play of sophomore Ali Bond, who stepped up her game as the Braves battled in a 1-1 game.
Another key was play off the bench.
“Astrid Jorgensen came off the bench in the last 15 or 20 minutes and controlled the midfield,” he said.
Bond said it was fun to be part of such a big win.
“It was a really, really exciting game,” she said. “It was a challenge. It was a dramatic second half. I was really nervous.”
Talawanda’s young team stands at 7-5-5 overall for the season after finishing 2-2-3 in the Fort Ancient Valley Conference’s West Division and in fourth place behind undefeated Ross, which won both the boys’ and girls’ soccer titles. For the girls, Harrison finished second and Norwood third.
Thompson said all those ties are indicative of the play of a young team, top heavy with freshmen and sophomores, which gives bright promise for the future.
“It was exciting, right down to the end,” the coach said. “We’ve played close games all year. I’m proud of our players.”
The immediate future will be a real test for the team. Playing St. Ursula on Saturday has Bond excited with the challenge and she and Ball both see their young team ready to take it on and pit themselves against the best.
“We are a young team…all freshman and sophomores,” Bond said, with Ball adding, “It will definitely be an experience.”
Bond said that since the team is young, there was some growing together they needed to do early in the season and part of those growing pains was the team’s five tie games.
“We needed to get used to each other and at the end we trust each other.” Bond said, with Ball adding, “We got rhythm going on.”
The coach sees the challenge of playing St, Ursula as a test to see how much his team has improved.
“It will be a great experience,” Thompson said. “When you win a game in the tournament you get a taste of that. This will be a great experience for the girls.”
Both players see a lot of promise for next year’s team with young players gaining experience this year and, as sophomore this year, they look forward to the challenge of next year.
“We will be beastly,” Ball said. Bond agreed, but with a bit less hyperbole. “We will be great,” she said.