At the most important time of the season, this year is looking a lot like last year for the Olentangy Liberty High School boys soccer team.
The Patriots clinched their second consecutive state tournament berth by defeating Dublin Coffman 3-1 in a Division I regional final Nov. 3 at Dublin Jerome, the same score by which they beat the Shamrocks on the same stage in 2011.
Liberty lost 4-2 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final last year.
"It's a lot of the same guys, it's just a different mentality," coach Rick Collins said. "A big part of that is because we've been here before now, so last year everything was new. I think we surprised ourselves as well as surprising everybody else."
Those days are gone. The Patriots (20-1) were the top seed in the district tournament and outscored their first five postseason opponents 26-4.
Against Coffman, Zach Matheny scored Liberty's first goal off a corner kick from Thomas Gallo with 21 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half. Kyle Baum made it 2-0 three minutes later off an assist from Sam DeRoy, and Grant Fisher capped the scoring with 21 seconds left in the game.
"This gets better and better each time," Matheny said. "It's better than last year. It's weird because it was the same (opponent), same score, but every time we win it just keeps getting better and better."
Liberty beat Westerville North 3-1 in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Gahanna. Baum had two goals and DeRoy scored one. Anderson deAndrade had one save.
The Patriots played Mason in a state semifinal Nov. 7 at Bellbrook. The winner plays Aurora or Sylvania Southview in the state final at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Crew Stadium.
"To actually get to the state semifinals is very rewarding," Collins said. "It's definitely a credit to these boys because they've worked so hard."
Pioneers boys enjoy 'great season'
The Orange boys team was pleased with its season even before losing 2-0 to seventh-seeded Westerville North in a Division I district final Oct. 27 at Gahanna.
"Anytime you can make a district final, it's impressive, but to do so in Columbus with the good soccer we have, it's a big accomplishment," coach Scott Bryant said. "We accomplished things we wanted to. It was a great season."
Seeded sixth, the Pioneers finished 12-5-2 overall and won the OCC-Capital title at 7-0, ahead of New Albany (5-2), Olentangy (5-2), Big Walnut (3-3-1), Delaware (3-3-1), Watkins Memorial (3-4), Mount Vernon (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
Orange beat 12th-seeded Westerville South 3-2 in a district semifinal Oct. 24 after beating Franklin Heights 11-0 in its tournament opener Oct. 20.
The Pioneers lose nine seniors, including Jake Anderson (midfielder), Alec Binger (defender), Nick Deitsch (midfielder), Graham Keown (defender), Sean O'Reilly (midfielder) and Nick Wheeler (defender).
Expected to return are juniors Cory Dietz (midfielder), Ethan Ennis (defender), Xavier Gregory (midfield), Skyler Siles (midfielder), Jared Rieger (goalkeeper), Brandon Simon (midfielder), Jimmy Sturmi (forward/defender), Jordan Vinicky (defender) and Denny Vroom (midfielder) and sophomores Connor Blakely (forward/midfielder) and Luke Gabbert (defender).
Blakely and Deitsch both had eight goals.
Anderson and Binger were first-team all-league and all-district and Deitsch was first-team all-league. Blakely, O'Reilly and Wheeler were second-team all-league, Keown was special mention and Gabbert was honorable mention.
Braves girls fall in semifinal
The Olentangy girls team ended its season with a 2-0 loss to fifth-seeded Watterson in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 23 to finish 7-6-4 overall.
"In the first half, they were a lot quicker to the ball and faster than us," said coach Drew Zellers said. "We thought if we could get through the first half 0-0, we'd have a good chance of pulling it out in the second half. We had the better of the play in the second half but didn't create a lot of opportunities."
Olentengy opened the postseason Oct. 18 with a 2-1 win over Westerville North.
The Braves went 4-2 in the OCC-Capital to place second, behind New Albany (6-0) and ahead of Orange (3-1-2), Big Walnut (3-3), Watkins Memorial (2-3-1), Delaware (1-4-1) and Mount Vernon (0-6). Franklin Heights did not play a league schedule.
This was the Braves' second consecutive winning season after not having one since 2007. They were 9-8-1 last year.
Olentangy loses nine seniors but expect to return juniors Bailee Bonanno (defender), Stephanie Dawson (midfielder), Morgan Harrison (midfielder) and Allison Lowery (midfielder), sophomores Hayley McCullough (midfielder), Morgan McCullough (forward), Payton Naylor (forward), Alana Poff (defender) and Abby Schwing (midfielder) and freshman Kendall Supinger (defender).
Senior forward Catie Crum was first-team all-league and second-team all-district and senior goalie Bailey Hatch (65 saves) wasfirst-team all-league and and honorable mention all-district.
Senior forward Megan Landon, Naylor and senior defender Natasha Ustaszewski were second-team all-league and Poff was honorable mention all-league.