Girls Soccer: Early adversity galvanized Bexley's drive to league title

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Ivy Simpson and the Bexley girls soccer team captured the program's first league championship since 2011 by going 6-1-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division. The Lions are seeded third for the Division II district tournament.

It took an improbable season to create a memorable outcome for the Bexley girls soccer team.

The Lions overcame the challenges of COVID-19 coronavirus protocols to win their first league championship since 2011.

With its fifth consecutive win, 14-0 over Whitehall on Oct. 14, Bexley improved to 8-2-2 overall and finished 6-1-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division. The Lions went 7-1 in league play in 2011 to tie Granville and Columbus Academy for the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio title.

Junior midfielder Sydney Tyler said it has been a satisfying journey.

“Our chemistry is better this year because we all realized the circumstances that we were going to be playing in,” she said. “We knew we wouldn’t have as much time together in the preseason so when we made our goals we realized that we wanted to focus on coming together to win the league. That’s been exciting.”

Second-year coach Scott James said his team dialed things up after the return of two key junior cogs in defender Lillian Hoyer and goalie Katie Jude. Hoyer had a hamstring injury, and Jude missed time with a concussion.

“I think getting our goalie, Katie Jude, and our center-back, Lillian Hoyer, back from injuries has been a big help,” said James, whose team played Gahanna on Oct. 17 to close the regular season. “They were out for three, four, five games with injury, and they both came back and we really turned it up to another level. These girls want to play for each other. It gave them a ton of confidence.”

Tyler said the Lions started building confidence from their first game.

“Our first game was a league game (against Zanesville Rosecrans on Sept. 5),” she said. “We had no scrimmages before that.

“Starting off on a high note with a couple league wins (beating Rosecrans 3-0 and Columbus School for Girls 2-0 on Sept. 9) and then a win against a Division I team (3-2 over Westerville Central on Sept. 12) really put aside all of the negativity. We didn’t have any scrimmages and we were in small pods of 10 for weeks. I think that pushed us to work harder knowing that we can do it with hard work and determination and beat all of that adversity.”

The Lions are seeded third for the Division II district tournament behind top-seeded Granville and second-seeded Jonathan Alder. They defeated the district’s fourth seed, Bloom-Carroll, 3-0 on Oct. 10 with all three goals coming from senior forward Aly Cox.

“Aly has really been stepping up as a senior and a captain,” James said. “I think she realizes that this is it. She has put the team on her back.

“You have (junior forward) Grace Heilman working her butt off and (freshman forward) Isabella Niermeyer is coming on. We’re playing at a high level going into the tournament.”

Heilman led the Lions in scoring with seven goals and four assists through 11 games, and Cox had eight goals. Junior forward Ava Joseph had three goals and one assist, and Niermeyer had one goal and five assists.

“We have been playing as a team, and we have been communicating and passing really well,” Niermeyer said. “We have to work as a team, we have to always apply a lot of pressure, and we have to play with a lot of energy.”

The Lions open the postseason Saturday, Oct. 24, at home against 12th-seeded Hamilton Township. The winner plays sixth-seeded Worthington Christian or 13th-seeded London on Wednesday, Oct. 28, in a district semifinal at the home field of the better seed. The Lions tied Worthington Christian at 1 on Sept. 23 in league play.

The district final is Oct. 31 with Bloom-Carroll and fifth-seeded Hartley as possible opponents.

“I think that our team chemistry is great, and we have been able to use that to the best of our abilities,” senior defender Lauren Fournier said. “It feels great that we were able to have so little time together and make things work and get wins on the scoreboard.”

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