Findlay’s Alivia Benjamin (7) clears the ball around Oregon Clay’s Haley Cannon (9) during Wednesday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference girls soccer match at Findlay. (Photo by Kent Tarbox)

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER

Three shots on goal normally might not feel like enough against the two-time defending league champs in Oregon Clay.

But Findlay High’s girls soccer team converted all three with fortunate bounces.

The Trojans scored twice from long range in the first 11 minutes and fended off a constant attack by the Eagles to earn a 3-2 Three Rivers Athletic Conference soccer victory at Elmer Graham Stadium on Wednesday.

“I rarely breathe easily, even at home in my own bed; certainly not against a league opponent who is the back-to-back defending champ,” Findlay girls coach Jon Hayfield said. “They’ve been in situations where they trail but teams like that are used to winning.

“A lot of times they find it. That’s where we’re hoping to get back to and super proud of the girls. We’ve talked all summer about how for us to compete in games, we’re going to have to outwork people and come with more emotion, passion and energy — and the girls rose up to that challenge tonight.”

Wednesday’s match featured two of the three teams still unbeaten TRAC play.

Findlay improved to 4-3-1 overall, 3-0 in league action.

Toledo St. Ursula (4-1-1, 2-0) is the only other TRAC unbeaten after the Eagles, who hadn’t lost a league game since Oct. 5, 2016 (2-1 to Toledo Notre Dame), fell to 4-3-1, 1-1-1.

The Trojans got their first goal via the own-goal variety, the second by Emily Meier and the third from Ellie Copeland in the second half. Meier and Copeland, both sophomores, notched the first varsity goals of their careers.

The shots by Findlay were slim as Oregon Clay largely controlled possession on attack, often to be suppressed by a stout Trojan defense.

Alivia Benjamin led Findlay with nine intercepts while Emma Heidlebaugh, Colette Seager and Addie Fox each had six. Heidlebaugh led with four steals.

Findlay goalkeeper Celia Johnson recorded eight saves, facing a lot of lofted shots from distance.

“My defense really helps me a lot; they’re our rock of our team,” Johnson said. “When we all go up and work as a team, no one can stop us at that point.”

Just last season in Oregon, the Trojans struck first 6 minutes in only to give up a goal on the ensuing kickoff nine seconds later. The Eagles eventually won 2-1.

This time, Findlay got on the board 9:25 in off a corner kick.

Sophia Yu’s corner hugged the endline and deflected off Clay goalkeeper Kennedy Slovak, last year’s TRAC Goalkeeper of the Year, and snuck in the near post.

“People may say that first goal is a bit lucky,” Hayfield said. “We always talk about putting the ball in those situations. Defenders do not like to face their own goal. Own goals happen.”

Not even 2 minutes later the Trojans were on the attack again.

Kaelyn Couch got a touch at midfield and sent a wide lead pass left for Meier to the edge of the box.

Meier pulled up and arced one high over Slovak and into the top-right corner.

Meanwhile, Clay’s Rylee Clark scored on a penalty kick at the 14:47 mark to cut Findlay’s lead to 2-1 that stood into halftime.

The Eagles came out on the attack in the second half and threatened for the first 14 minutes without scoring.

Findlay finally developed a nice counter-attack when Couch dished long to Fox on the right side of the box.

“Couch ran the channels wonderfully all game,” Hayfield said.

Fox fired a shot at the goal and a charging Copeland deflected it in the net with a defender on her back to give the Trojans a comfortable 3-1 lead with 26 minutes left.

“I was thinking I had to get a touch on it to get it in the back of the net,” said Copeland. “I was trying to go for it but sometimes you’ve just got to get anything on it.”

Clay’s leading scorer Payton Rigg, who had seven goals entering, scored unassisted in the box with 3:35 remaining but it was too little, too late for the Eagles.

“We didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Clay coach Don Hess said.

Findlay hosts Perrysburg at 7 p.m. Monday in a nonleague contest before resuming TRAC play against Toledo Central Catholic in another home match at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

JUNIOR VARSITY

FINDLAY 1, OREGON CLAY 1

goals: (Fin) Taylor Nichols. Assists: (Fin) Haylea Couch. saves: (Fin) Hannah Domachowski 9.

records: Findlay 2-3-2 overall, 1-0-2 .

Wolf, 419-427-8496
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