Late goal sends Liberty to state final
BELLBROOK, Ohio — By a conservative count, Olentangy Liberty had seven opportunities to score in the first half of a Division I state semifinal against Mason last night at Miami Valley South Stadium.
But the barrage of chances was wasted. Liberty, dominant for most of the game, had to wait until the final minutes to secure a spot in the state championship game for the second year in a row.
Senior forward Jared Robinson buried a weak clearance with 4:44 remaining. It was redemption for his flubbed attempt at the top of the penalty area seconds earlier and was the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory.
“We were unlucky to not finish some of those chances in the first half because we owned them,” Robinson said. “We dominated. Unfortunately we didn’t finish those chances, but we still got the win.”
Liberty (21-1) will play Sylvania Southview (17-3-2) for the state title at Crew Stadium on Saturday. It is familiar ground for the Patriots, who lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-2 in the state final last season.
But a second chance at a championship was in doubt for much of the game against Mason, which had never reached a state semifinal.
“We were all over them in the first half with tons of chances,” Liberty coach Rick Collins said. “I said, ‘Just keep putting the ball in the box and one is going to come.’ ”
Mason (18-3-1) conceded five corner kicks and took only one in the first half. The Comets couldn’t take advantage of sloppy Liberty defending late in the first half and found attacking life in the second.
“I felt like they were going to open up a little more in the second half and attack and they did,” Collins said. “They really stretched the field. But our backline adjusted well and we connected well through the midfield.”
Liberty kept its cool as the game remained scoreless. The Patriots scored three goals or more in 17 of their previous 21 games.
“We had scored a ton this season so I wasn’t nervous about us not scoring,” Liberty forward Taylor Scott said. “A goal was going to come.”
It did, but not before Robinson, an Evansville commitment, flubbed the potential winner. But his shot was not cleared from a scrum in front of the net and bounced back to his feet. Robinson did not miss a second time.
“It was a little make-up for the first shot,” he said.
It has been a quick rise to the top for Liberty, which has had only one losing season since its inception in 2003 but did not win a district title until last season. The Patriots, No. 2 in the final state poll, will be considered the favorite in the final.
“We have a little experience under our belt,” Robinson said. “I think we’re more experienced and we’re a better team heading into the final this time.”
Mason mounted a frantic attack in the final minutes, but forward Jack Clark sent an open chance over the crossbar with 1:15 remaining.
The shutout was Liberty’s first since it defeated Whetstone in the tournament opener. The Patriots had allowed just one goal in each of their previous four games.