In retrospect, Pickerington High School North girls soccer coach Greg Van Kannel might not have taken such a defensive-minded approach in the second half of a Division I regional final against Watterson on Nov. 3 at Dublin Jerome.
That worked for most of the half, but the momentum changed when the Eagles' Audrey Shea scored the tying goal with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left.
"We were going a little more defensive (in the second half) trying to protect that lead maybe too much," Van Kannel said. "As long as they didn't score, it was all right. But when they did, it kind of changed the momentum a little bit. That's sports."
North fell short of its second state tournament berth in three years when the Eagles' Emma Schlosser scored with 7:16 left in overtime to give Watterson a 2-1 win. The Panthers finished 15-2-3 overall.
"Audrey Shea played a big ball in and it was extremely chaotic in the box," Schlosser said. "It ended up getting out of their keeper's (senior Grace Kenyon) hands and I was just there."
The Eagles handed the Panthers both of their losses this season, both by the same score.
Watterson defeated North 2-1 on Sept. 15 at Otterbein. They were the top two seeds, respectively, in the 44-team district tournament.
Sophomore forward Tori Haggit scored the only goal for North in both games. On Nov. 3, she gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead off an assist from sophomore forward Morgan Dragich with 13:40 left in the first half.
Watterson won its first regional championship since 1998.
"They're a phenomenal team and they probably work together better than any team we've played this year," Panthers senior forward Alicia Donley said before the regional final. "I wanted to play Watterson again. We felt all year like this has been our year. When we play well together, we've been unstoppable."
North advanced to the regional final by knocking off Olentangy 4-2 in a semifinal Oct. 30 at Jerome. Senior midfielder Camryn Dees, Donley, senior forward Avery Hart and Haggit each scored after the Braves took an early 1-0 lead.
Despite missing the first five games of the season because of an injury, Donley led the Panthers with 19 goals and had four assists. The Tennessee commit was named Player of the Year in both the OCC-Ohio Division and district for the second consecutive season.
Hart added 12 goals and was first-team all-league along with Dees, who had seven goals and also was named second-team all-district.
Kenyon, Haggit and junior defender Haley Moore all were second-team all-league, senior midfielder Aleece Lukascko was special mention all-league and senior defender Makenna Greer was honorable mention all-league.
Kenyon has committed to Seton Hill University.
North went 4-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio to share the championship with Gahanna, ahead of third-place Pickerington Central (3-2).
Other key players eligible to return include juniors Lindsi Filippi (midfielder) and Elise Moore (goalie).
Season also ends for boys soccer team
In what both coaches considered an evenly-matched Division I regional semifinal, the boys soccer team lost to Olentangy Liberty 2-0 on Oct. 31 at Jerome, snapping an 18-game winning streak and ending the best season in program history.
The Patriots' Jaggar Brooker scored what turned out to be the winning goal with 25:30 left in the first half.
North had several scoring chances midway through the second half but was unable to convert, and Liberty's Nick Stack added an insurance goal with less than 12 minutes to go.
"(Liberty) finished their chances and we didn't finish our chances," coach Darrin Monhollen said. "We had several opportunities that were very threatening. We had chances that were dangerous that we should have finished and that made all the difference in the game. These were two very evenly matched teams in a lot of ways."
Junior goalie Cory Pulles made three saves for North, which finished 18-2 overall. The Panthers' only other loss was to St. Charles, 2-0 in their season opener Aug. 17.
North went 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio to win its third consecutive league championship, ahead of co-runners-up Gahanna and Grove City (both 2-1-2), and was seeded fourth in the 48-team district tournament and defeated sixth-seeded Olentangy 2-0 on Oct. 27 at Grandview to win the first district championship in the program's 16 seasons.
Senior forward Will Harr led the Panthers with a program-record 27 goals. Junior midfielder Reece Allbaugh had 15 goals and senior midfielder Brayden Durbin added 12.
All three shared league Player of the Year honors.
Durbin and Harr were named first-team all-district and Allbaugh was second-team all-district.
Senior midfielder Evan Herd was second-team all-league, junior midfielder Duvall Brannon was special mention all-league and senior midfielder Luke Kenyon was honorable mention all-league.
"We're very proud of this group," Monhollen said. "They're like brothers. They always knew their brothers had their back. I will miss a lot of these guys because of their heart and determination and the fact that they played hard for each other."