Even after Saturday’s 2-0 district final setback to top-seeded Granville, coach Drew Pitzer has never been more proud of his Big Walnut girls soccer team.
And why not?
The way the Golden Eagles marched to the championship, handling second-seeded Bloom-Carroll by a 2-0 margin, was pretty impressive.
Forward Kelly Kreager provided both goals and goalie Colleen White made two key saves down the stretch to preserve the upset win over the host Bulldogs in a Division II district semifinal at Carl Fell Stadium last Wednesday night.
Kreager scored the first goal from about 10 yards out to break a scoreless tie just under 15 minutes into the game.
“Kelly is a monster,” Pitzer said. “Kelly is disliked by every visiting team. You play against Kelly, you hate her … you play with Kelly, you love her. She’s got more heart than most girls I’ve ever coached.”
She found the net again on a loose ball that bounced around before she cleaned it up from in front with 19:38 remaining in the first half.
“It’s was a great feeling … it’s a major adrenaline rush,” Kreager said. “You don’t have to think about it, you just shoot. It was a header by Bailey Bodker and it was kind of there. I just helped it go in.”
White took over in the second half. She made just two saves in the game, but both were diving stops one-on-one.
Forward Miranda Frear got by the Golden Eagle defense and White was there as the last line of defense. White made a diving stop to stone Frear and preserve the two-goal lead about seven and a half minutes into the second half.
She made a similar save almost 15 minutes later as another Bulldog got by the defense.
“She had two saves, but they were the two biggest saves of her career,” Pitzer said. “That’s just a senior saying, ‘I’m not done.’ She made me look like a really good coach.”
The Big Walnut girls volleyball team couldn’t get over the hump against seventh-seeded Bishop Watterson and its season came to a close in a Division I semifinal match last Wednesday.
Senior Jessica Ruffing had 16 kills, classmate Kylie Stickrath had 15 digs and fellow senior Abby Kitchen pitched in with 33 assists, but Big Walnut couldn’t break through, falling 3-0 to Bishop Watterson in the Tom Petty Gymnasium at Bloom-Carroll High School.
The match was a lot like how the year went for Big Walnut.
“I think it was a good year, but I’m kind of disappointed – I thought we had two or three shots at winning the league and we couldn’t do that,” BW coach Ron Lehman said. “I felt like we had a shot at winning the district title, but we couldn’t get that done either.”
Big Walnut took a 20-15 lead in the first set on back-to-back kills by Ruffing, but Watterson closed strong, scoring 10 of the final 13 points to take the set 25-23. Carolyn Leitch led the way with three kills to finish off the set for Watterson.
“We got caught in a bad rotation at the end of set one,” Lehman said. “I think it took something out of our girls because we struggled to get it going again. If we would have hung on and won the first set, it may have been different, but obviously, we couldn’t do that.”
Ruffing also had 10 digs.
“She played great … she did really, really well,” Lehman said. “We passed really well, we just couldn’t put the ball away other than Jess.”
Machaela Podraza and Olivia Wince combined on a block to put Big Walnut up 11-8 early in the third set, but Watterson fought back to take the lead and then push it to 19-15 on another kill by Leitch.
Leitch led Watterson with 13 kills.
Big Walnut stormed back to tie it 20-20 on a Podraza kill, but didn’t have enough to close out the set. Watterson took five of the next six points and finished off the match on a kill by Elena DeJaco to win the third set 25-21.
“We got it to 20-20, but we couldn’t close out those final five points,” Lehman said. “It’s still a long ways to come back, but you’d like to think that we still got a shot (with a win in the third set).”
DeJaco, who had been battling pneumonia for the last couple of weeks, according to coach Max Miller, contributed 12 kills. Josie Vondran had 33 assists to lead Watterson, which didn’t have a service error in the match.
Watterson controlled much of the second set, breezing to a 25-14 victory.
Lehman said that his team is young — it features three freshmen and five sophomores — and said that this year’s experience helps build for the future.
“I felt like our league was a lot better this year than it has been … more competitive,” he said. “I thought our kids improved throughout the year. We obviously had some young kids out there and sometimes it got to them, but overall they did a good job.”
Watterson fell 3-2 in the district title match to Gahanna-Lincoln Saturday to finish its season 16-8.
Big Walnut used a monster second quarter to capture a 35-14 lead heading into halftime, but visiting Franklin Heights dominated the third and fourth quarters on the way to a 52-41 OCC-Capital Division win in Friday’s season finale in Sunbury.
Evan Garcia broke the scoring seal seconds into the game, plowing into the end zone from 16 yards out at the 11:44 mark of the first quarter. Tyler Shuster added the PAT to make it a 7-0 Golden Eagle advantage.
Garcia scored again, this time from a yard out with 10:18 left in the first, and Big Walnut, up 14-0, looked poised to punctuate the season in a big way.
Things got better before they got worse.
After the Falcons (1-9, 1-6 OCC) scored a pair of TDs to draw even just before the start of the second, David Hunt scored on a four-yard run top put the Eagles (2-8, 1-6 OCC) back on top.
Evan Garcia’s third score of the night, a four-yard run, made it 28-14, and his fourth, a 23-yard sprint, ballooned the BW edge to 35-14 with 14 seconds left in the opening half.
It was then, at the start of the third quarter, the tide started to turn. Franklin Heights’ big-play offense, which was kept under control in the first two quarters, finally broke free.
The Falcons, who racked up 509 yards of total offense in the win, outscored the Golden Eagles 22-6 in the third and 16-0 in the fourth to smooth out the scoring summary.
Dylan Akers wasn’t exactly efficient, throwing two interceptions, but he made up for them by completing 22 of his 34 attempts for 310 yards and four touchdowns passes, two of which went to James Morgan.
Heights’ Brendon Knox sparked the ground game with 160 yards and two touchdowns on 31 attempts.
Garcia led the Eagles with 139 rushing yards on 18 attempts to go with his four touchdowns. Hunt was also solid, finishing with 86 yards on 16 carries.
Delaware Gazette Sports Editor Ben Stroup and free-lance reporter Michael Rich contributed to this report.