In a postseason where nearly everything came up heads for the Bexley High School boys soccer team, its Division II state semifinal game against DeSales on Nov. 10 at Dublin Coffman came up tails.
The Lions held DeSales -- ranked first in the final state poll -- scoreless in regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods before being outscored 4-3 in a shootout to finish 17-3-2 overall.
DeSales defeated Bay Village Bay 1-0 in the state final last Friday to finish 19-1-3.
"(In a shootout) it's almost a flip of a coin. I guess our luck ran out," said midfielder Ross Friedman, whose team won three consecutive tournament games in double overtime or a shootout before falling to the Stallions. "We gave it everything we had."
Bexley trailed 2-0 in the shootout before rallying to tie the score at 3 on goals by David Essman, Evan Porter and Collin Hepler. Lions goalkeeper Christian Liefeld made one save in the shootout, but couldn't stop DeSales' Sean Dundon from placing a shot into the lower left corner of the net in the fifth round to send the Stallions to the state final.
Bexley had defeated Dayton Carroll 2-1 (4-2 in shootout) in a regional final on Nov. 7, Kettering Alter 1-0 in double overtime in a regional semifinal on Nov. 3 and Big Walnut 2-1 (5-4 in shootout) in a district final on Oct. 31.
Prior to Bexley, no Division II boys team had played in four consecutive tournament games that went to double overtime or a shootout since the OHSAA added a third division in 2000.
The Lions' last five seasons, including 2005 when they won the state championship, have ended with a game that ended in overtime or a shootout. Last year, they lost to DeSales 2-1 in double overtime in a district final.
"It's a tough way to go out, but I told the kids I couldn't be more proud of the way they fought through this tournament," coach Greg Kullman said. "We played four consecutive games going into overtime, three of which went to penalty kicks. To have the legs and the mental ability to fight through to the end is very impressive."
Bexley greatly improved from last season, when it finished 6-8-5. The Lions tied eventual Division III state champion Worthington Christian at 1 in their opener on Aug. 29 and lost to eventual Division I state champion Gahanna 2-0 in their second game on Sept. 3, but went 15-1-1 in their next 17 games before falling to DeSales. During that stretch, they lost to Hilliard Davidson 1-0 on Sept. 26 and played Coshocton -- ranked eighth in the final Division II state poll -- to a scoreless tie in the regular-season finale on Oct. 17.
According to Friedman, who has verbally committed to play at Indiana University, the game against Coshocton was a turning point.
"It was our last game of the regular season and we weren't satisfied with a tie," he said. "Ever since then, we knew we had to bring it. It all came together. I've never learned more or had a greater experience in my life."
Bexley won its second consecutive MSL-Ohio Division championship after going 13 years without a league title, finishing 5-0 and outscoring its league opponents 32-5. Granville and Whitehall tied for second at 3-2, followed by Columbus Academy (2-3), Lakewood (2-3) and Heath (0-5).
Friedman (12 goals, 10 assists) was named MSL-Ohio Player of the Year. Also making first-team all-league were forward Matt Asensio (13 goals, 6 assists) and defender Kevin Bond (3 goals, 4 assists).
Bexley loses 10 seniors in Friedman, Asensio, Bond, midfielders Eric Hollis (5 goals, 5 assists), Evan Jones (6 goals, 2 assists), Aaron Lynn (1 goal, 1 assist) and Matt Sharpe (2 goals, 1 assist) and defenders David Essman (3 goals, 2 assists), Stefan Gruesen (1 goal) and Collin Hepler (4 goals, 1 assist).
"Our seniors were big in numbers and big in heart," said Kullman, the MSL-Ohio Coach of the Year. "We took our lumps last year, but the seniors did a fabulous job of getting the kids to believe in themselves and teaching them what it took to be winners."
Leading the list of potential returnees is Liefeld, a junior who replaced first-team all-district and all-league goalie Michael Prout.
"(Filling Prout's spot) was one of the main concerns coming into the season, but Christian was one of the best players on the field," Friedman said.
Also expected to return are junior defenders Caleb Fechtor (1 goal), Anthony Hodge (5 goals), Matt O'Hern and Neal Pohlman (2 goals, 1 assist), junior midfielders Marcus Gustin, Joe Macklin (1 goal, 1 assist), Evan Porter (2 goals, 4 assists) and Nick Spaeth-Cook, junior forward Jackson Roecker (5 goals), junior goalie C.J. Needleman and freshman goalie Sebastian Parra.
"We have some good kids coming back and some good younger players in the program," Kullman said. "I wish I could coach this group one more game, but it's been a fantastic ride."