Featuring a balanced attack and a blend of experience and talented underclassmen, the Grandview Heights High School girls soccer team won its second Division III regional championship in three seasons.
The fifth-ranked Bobcats defeated Lynchburg-Clay 2-1 in double overtime Nov. 4 in a regional final at Waverly to improve to 18-2-1. They advanced to play top-ranked Cincinnati Summit Country Day in a state semifinal Nov. 7 at Beavercreek.
The winner advanced to the state final against ninth-ranked Kirtland or Findlay Liberty-Benton on Friday, Nov. 10, at a time to be determined at Mapfre Stadium. Kirtland entered its semifinal at 14-4-3 and Liberty-Benton was 16-3-2.
Two years ago, Grandview reached a state semifinal but lost to Summit Country Day 2-0. The Silver Knights went on to win the state championship with a 6-0 win over Doylestown Chippewa.
"We're a more balanced team offensively than we were a couple of years ago," coach Mike Merna said. "We had (2016 graduate) Haley (Rees) with 30 goals and this year Maddy James and Tayler Pierce both (had) 18 (before the state semifinal) to lead us.
"The defense is about the same except for experience. Two years ago we were a senior-led defense and this year we have a lot of freshmen back there doing the job for us. Maybe sometimes it's better to have freshmen back there because they don't know that they shouldn't be playing this well."
Pierce scored with 7 minutes, 33 seconds left in the second overtime against Lynchburg-Clay to give the Bobcats the regional title. The freshman forward lofted a shot from 30 yards out that went over the head of goalkeeper Serena Smith.
Smith seemed to save the shot, but the ball rolled off her hands into the back of the net for the game-winner.
"It's a shot I probably shouldn't have taken because it was too far out," Pierce said. "I'm glad I did, though, since it went in."
Anna Dobies booted a corner kick that curved into the net with 24:59 left in the first half. The senior defender said that never had happened before on one of her corners.
"I went up and shot it and the ball curved the right way," Dobies said. "That's never happened to me before and I've never seen it happen. I thought it went in, but wasn't sure since there was no reaction. I think they weren't sure that it had gone in either."
Sophomore defender Hallie Georskey stopped a Lynchburg-Clay shot in front of the goal midway through the first overtime. She sacrificed her body on a dive that had her taking the brunt of the Mustangs' shot from about 12 yards away.
"I just knew that I had to throw my body in there to stop that shot because I care too much about this team to let that happen," Georskey said. "I wanted to win so badly. I believe in this team and I believe we can go so far."
Goalie Ruby Gentile had five saves.
The Bobcats defeated Zanesville Rosecrans 4-0 in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Lakewood.
Maddie Arndt, James, Pierce and Whitney Schaefer all scored, and Gentile had three saves.
Georskey said the team has been using a simple defensive strategy.
"You start with the forwards with them working hard to defend, and then it goes back to the midfielder and they start picking things off," she said. "Then it comes back to the back line and Ruby in goal. I do what I can to organize people.
"Matchups are so critical for us, so we have to put our best player against their best player, tall people against tall people and fast people against fast people. We have to be better than our opponent and we know we can do it."