For the second time in three seasons, the Grandview Heights High School girls soccer team fell one win short of the Division III state championship game.
Both times, the roadblock for the Bobcats was Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
Fifth-ranked Grandview lost to the top-ranked Silver Knights 3-1 in a state semifinal Nov. 7 at Beavercreek to finish 18-3-1 overall.
In 2015, Summit Country Day beat the Bobcats 2-0 in a state semifinal and went on to defeat Doylestown Chippewa 6-0 for the championship. This season, the Silver Knights won the state title with a 4-0 victory over Kirtland on Nov. 10 at Mapfre Stadium.
"Our kids played hard," said coach Mike Merna, who completed his 14th season. "(Summit Country Day) is the best team in the state and everyone knows that going in.
"We knew it was a tall order for us, and we gave them a good battle. You could tell by the way they came streaming off the bench and celebrating that they were challenged. I was really proud of the way our kids played."
Senior defender Anna Dobies scored on a corner kick with 31 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half for 1-0 lead. It was much like the goal from the corner that Dobies scored in a 2-1 double-overtime win over Lynchburg-Clay in a regional final Nov. 4 at Waverly.
"Anna is really good at those and she gets a bend on it," Merna said. "Maybe their goalie (Mimi Stines) thought it wasn't hit as hard as it was and it made things exciting for a bit."
Junior goalkeeper Ruby Gentile was tested by Summit Country Day throughout the game and finished with 18 saves.
"We can't practice at that speed because we don't see it enough," Merna said. "There were times when we settled down and we could get the ball forward, but we were so panicky because the speed (the Silver Knights) play is so different than anything we see. It's just hard for us. We played well defensively, but it's tough when they have the ball 70 minutes out of 80."
The Bobcats defeated Zanesville Rosecrans 4-0 in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Lakewood. In the district tournament, top-seeded Grandview defeated ninth-seeded West Jefferson 5-0 on Oct. 19, sixth-seeded Johnstown 2-1 on Oct. 25 in a semifinal and second-seeded Columbus Academy 1-0 in a shootout to win the title Oct. 28 at Gahanna.
The Bobcats finished third (4-2-1) in the MSL-Ohio Division behind Academy (6-0-1) and Worthington Christian (4-1-2) and ahead of Wellington (4-3), Bexley (3-2-2), Rosecrans (3-4), London (1-6) and Whitehall (0-7).
Senior forward Maddy James (18 goals, 4 assists) was second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-league. Dobies (5 goals, 5 assists) was first-team all-district and all-league, and senior defender Kirsten Lower was second-team all-league.
Forward Maxi Nelson (3 goals) completed the senior class.
"Anna and Kirsten have been dominant in the back for us all season," Merna said. "The way they can lock down a game defensively will be tough to replace, and Maddy has been a great goal-scorer and a great leader for us. They will be missed."
The Bobcats expect to return a lot of talent. Freshman forward Tayler Pierce (second-team all-district, first-team all-league) led the team in scoring with 18 goals and five assists, and junior midfielder Maddie Arndt (third-team all-district, second-team all-league) had seven goals and eight assists.
Also expected back are juniors Adelle Bechtel (defender), Olivia Girardi (midfielder; 6 goals, 2 assists) and Whitney Schaefer (midfielder; 7 goals, 9 assists), sophomore Hallie Georskey (defender) and freshmen Lindsey Bertani (midfielder; 4 goals, 1 assist), Carlie Orr (midfielder; 5 goals, 2 assists), Signe Slaughter (forward; 7 goals, 2 assists) and Tia Thomas (midfielder; 6 goals, 5 assists).
"It was amazing and I'm so glad we got to go to the (state tournament) with these girls," Georskey said. "I love them all so much and we're so happy to be able to do that."