ASHLAND – Rocky River posted a 3-2 victory over Celina in a Division II girls soccer regional championship game on a rainy Saturday at Ashland High School.
Rocky River showed why its unbeaten with plenty of precision passing and speed at nearly every position.
Celina took a 1-0 lead with 31:08 left in the first half. It marked the first time Rocky River had trailed in a game this year.
Rocky River tied the match just over one minute later and led 2-1 at the half.
“I don’t think it shook us at all,” Rocky River forward Sydney Hampker said of falling behind. “We knew we were down, and we knew we had to get a goal. I think it really fired us up. We knew we had to play.”
Rocky River led 3-1 most of the second half until Celina scored in the final minutes.
Rocky River (20-0-1) advances to the state semifinals against Hathaway Brown at 7 p.m. Tuesday at a site to be named. Celina ends its season 14-3-4.
Rocky River outshot Celina 16-4 for the match and 9-2 in the second half.
“I take my hat off to this team. They’re good,” Celina coach Calvin Freeman said.
Rocky River goalkeeper Sara Connelly made one save. Celina goalie Callie Vogel played well and finished with eight saves.
Rocky River continually used its speed and passing ability to control the midfield and get quality scoring chances from the perimeter of the 18-yard box.
“We are a possession team, and we knock the ball around really well,” Rocky River coach Patrick Hopkins said. “We work a great deal on possession and moving the ball.”
Celina scored first when Caelyn Reineke took a pass 12-yards out from Bekah Carr and hit a liner which pinged off the left post and bounced in for a goal. The goal came with 31:08 left in the first half.
Rocky River came right back down the field and tied the match at 1 with 30:07 left in the half. The goal was rammed home by Hampker on the goal-box line, off a corner kick by Jillian Krebs.
“Jillian had a great cross and I just ran,” Hampker said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Rocky River took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Samantha Zamarripa, who was standing on the left edge of the goal box. The ball came to her on a bouncing ball which came through the 18-yard box with 4:49 left in the first half.
The lead went to 3-1 off a free kick by Abby Elinsky from 25-yards out. The shot ended up on the foot of Grace Bennett, 2-yards off the goal line. Bennett punched it in with 39:21 left in the match.
“They’re an outstanding team and packed from forward to back with class and good players,” Freeman said. “I believe they will probably win the state.”
Celina wasn’t able to create much offense in the second half. But the Bulldogs got within 3-2 when Carr connected on a 30-yard free kick with 2:58 to go. The laser shot ball landed in the upper-left corner of the net.
“I’m proud of my team,” Freeman said. “To come in and play the number one team in the state (in Division II) and lose by one, I’m so happy.