By BRANDON SHRIDER
HOLLAND — Findlay High’s girls soccer team knew going into Monday’s district semifinal with Anthony Wayne that scoring goals would be a tough task.
Urgency for the illusive goal against the Generals — who had allowed just 12 goals all season and half of which came in their two losses — heightened once they eventually penetrated a strong Findlay defense with 6:38 left in the first half.
But an attempt to push numbers forward to begin the second half backfired for the Trojans as Emilie Reese added to her first-half goal with two more goals in the first five minutes and Anthony Wayne rolled to a 4-0 victory in a rainy match on Springfield High School’s turf.
Anthony Wayne, the No. 2 seed in the Holland District, improved to 15-2-1 and will play No. 3-seeded Toledo Notre Dame — a 2-1 winner over Oregon Clay in a penalty shootout in Monday’s first district semifinal at Springfield — in a Division I district final at 7 p.m. Thursday back at Springfield. The Generals beat Notre Dame 2-0 on Oct. 7.
“When we were down 1-0, forty minutes left to play in the season possibly, we were sending everybody forward,” Findlay coach David LaRocco said of his team which ended its season at 6-9-3 overall.
“And I think we got caught with two or three defenders in a lot of space. They had the ball, a lot of space, the girl broke down our defender and was able to just put the ball right across the goal and they had runners there.”
The defense-breaking girl who found a cutting Reese was Hannah Rybicki. And she matched Reese’s hat trick with a makeshift hat trick of her own.
After finding Reese for the game’s first goal late in the first half, Rybicki was at it again early in the second half, beating her defender one-on-one along the right wing and dropping a near-perfect cross into the box. The pass allowed Reese to boot an easy chip to the left half of the net.
The Rybicki-Reese combination became a trilogy just two minutes later.
With the Trojans pushing its midfield forward in an attempt to generate an offense that has struggled to find consistency for most of the season, the Generals again found a gap along the right sideline. Rybicki cut toward midfield, then dribbled back toward the baseline and deep into the box finding just enough space to slip a pass over to Reese who then rolled the ball to the near post past FHS keeper Kendra Wurm (6 saves) for a 3-0 lead.
“Any time we got caught in transition, that’s how the first goal got scored, that’s how the second and third goals got scored. It’s a high risk-high reward situation and we were going with a high-risk scenario,” LaRocco said.
“We put our best defender into the midfield and up at forward trying to get that goal because we knew it’d be difficult.
“I didn’t wanna sit back and just play for a tie, I wanted to try to win the game and I knew that was a possibility that we’d get caught, and we did.”
Findlay did generate some action in the midfield, especially in the first half. But the combinations up to its junior forward-duo of Morgan Kirk and Madison Mlnsa — who combined to score 35 goals a year ago as sophomores — were routinely unsuccessful and resulted in 80 minutes without a shot on goal.
“It was 0-0 until the last couple of minutes,” LaRocco said of his team’s early-season match with the Generals on Sept. 2.
“And we had a lot of games like that where we were equal to the task for 75 minutes of an 80 minute game and we just give up that late goal. For whatever reason we could not get consistent offense this year.”
The Trojans’ offense did score 39 goals in 18 matches this season, but was held scoreless in eight of those matches — including three 1-0 losses — after scoring 48 goals in 18 matches a year ago with just two scoreless efforts.
“We just could not get our top scorers to score the ball,” LaRocco said.
GOALS: (AW) Emilie Reese 3, Sam Schofield. ASSISTS: (AW) Hannah Rybicki 2, Jen Fortner 1. SHOTS-ON-GOAL: Findlay 0, Anthony Wayne 10. SAVES: (Fin) Kendra Wurm 6, (AW) Keaton Grabarczyk 0.
RECORDS: Findlay 6-9-3, Anthony Wayne 15-2-1.