Throughout the regular season, the words of encouragement never stopped from Upper Arlington High School girls soccer coach Mark Wise, who kept reassuring his players that they were better than their record indicated.

Throughout the regular season, the words of encouragement never stopped from Upper Arlington High School girls soccer coach Mark Wise, who kept reassuring his players that they were better than their record indicated.

Getting the Golden Bears to believe that became even more difficult after a five-game losing streak that preceded the Division I district tournament.

"You could tell the girls were just dejected," Wise said. "I just kind of ran out of speeches and you could tell they were just ready to say, 'Let's finish this out and go home.'"

They did the opposite.

Not only did UA open the postseason with a 4-1 victory over Canal Winchester on Oct. 18, it beat Watkins Memorial 3-2 in penalty kicks in the second round on Oct. 22 to improve to 5-11-2 and advance to a district semifinal against top-seeded Dublin Jerome on Oct. 25.

The semifinal winner will play 11th-seeded New Albany or 12th-seeded Olentangy Orange in a district final on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Thomas Worthington. The district champion will play Gahanna, Hilliard Davidson, Westerville North or Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Dublin Scioto.

The Bears lost to Davidson 3-0 on Oct. 4. Gahanna and Davidson are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, in the district, and North is seeded 10th.

"When you lose like we did, I think you can start to get comfortable with it," senior forward Carly Allen said. "We got so used to it, but I think there came a point when we just weren't going to accept it anymore."

The win against Watkins Memorial also marked the Bears' first come-from-behind victory all season. The Warriors took a 1-0 lead before Allen scored and the teams went into halftime tied at 1. The Bears took a 2-1 lead when senior midfielder Megan Demott scored early in the second half.

Watkins Memorial tied the game at 2 with 40 seconds left.

After two scoreless overtime periods, the game was decided by penalty kicks. Wise opted to let his players decide which five would take the kicks. Seniors Eileen Saunders and Lily Rhodehamel and sophomores Armonde Moore and Gabi MacNaughton all scored to give UA a 4-3 edge. Freshman Madeline Miller also was selected to take a penalty kick, but she didn't have to attempt a kick because the Warriors missed their second kick.

Sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Copley had five saves.

"I could just tell they were confident by looking into their eyes," Wise said. "With Ashley in goal for us, she showed a lot of poise and just looked very comfortable out there. When she saved that second shot, I just knew."

•The third-seeded boys team had no troubles in its Division I district tournament opener against Briggs on Oct. 22.

The Bears led 7-1 at halftime and finished with an 11-1 victory over the Bruins, who finished 3-8-2.

Rhodes Moore and Zack Shy led eight scorers with two goals apiece.

UA was 13-2-2 before playing Olentangy in a district semifinal on Oct. 26. The winner plays eighth-seeded Jerome or Reynoldsburg in a district final on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Wellington.

The Bears beat Jerome 3-0 on Sept. 8 behind two goals by Moore, one by Ryan Abbruzzese and six saves by goalkeeper Josh Jackson.

The district champion will play Scioto, Dublin Coffman, Westerville North or Davidson in a regional semifinal on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Coffman. The Bears beat Coffman 2-0 on Oct. 11 and defeated Davidson 2-1 on Oct. 4.

Scioto, which was first in the final state poll, is the top seed in the district, and Coffman and North are seeded fifth and 11th, respectively.