Relying on its defense experience around the net, the Worthington Kilbourne High School boys soccer team defeated Upper Arlington 1-0 on Tuesday in a regional semifinal at Dublin Coffman.
The Wolves, who improved to 18-2, will face Dublin Jerome at 3 p.m. Saturday at Dublin Scioto in a regional final. The Celtics defeated the Wolves 2-0 on Oct. 2.
"We're deep, deep, deep into our bench, and we're still playing well," Kilbourne coach Jon Sprunger said of his team which was ranked seventh in the final state poll. "There's a core group of kids back this year and the longer these kids play together, the stronger they get and the more confident they get. They just understand each other."
Jerome, ranked fourth in the state, improved to 16-1-3 with a 3-2 overtime win over Dublin Coffman in the other semifinal Tuesday.
The Wolves in its last five games have allowed just one goal, thanks in part to the strong play of Paul Hendricks in goal.
With the wind at its back Tuesday in the first half, Kilbourne failed to convert as many as four corner kicks, but finally found the net on a set piece with 11:29 to play.
Ben Gentry was in the battle for the ball in front of the goal as it bounced off UA goalkeeper Drew Sandbo. Chase Tourville found an opening to score.
"That's what Kilbourne's specialty is," said Golden Bears coach Curt Bixel, whose team ended the season at 11-7-2. "They win on set pieces. They dump the ball in, and they just fight for it. It ended up turning the game for them."
UA, favored by the wind in the second half, picked up its offensive attack with a different lineup.
The Wolves, who defeated the Golden Bears 2-0 on Sept. 2 in an OCC-Central Division contest, weathered the storm.
Daniel Palmer nearly tied the game with about 26 minutes left, but his shot from about 20 yards out sailed just high of the goal.
"I think Arlington in the last three weeks had become a very difficult team to beat," Sprunger said. "I was very concerned about their offensive push and their ability to transition. When you've got guys who are big, strong and fast sometimes game plans don't work."