Nick Miller’s first-half goal didn’t seem like it would be enough for Olentangy, but the defense made it hold up as the Braves blanked visiting Big Walnut 2-0 in a Division I sectional final Saturday in Lewis Center.
Nick Celona’s throw-in ended up on Miller’s chest after a clearing attempt by the defense. Miller was able to control the ball and fire a shot into the right side of the net to give Olentangy (6-9-2) a 1-0 lead with 20:49 left in the first half.
“We just had to keep playing hard,” senior captain Collin Hoffmann said. “(We couldn’t) shut down at all after that.”
“It’s huge because usually what happens is we let a goal in early and then we’re having to play catch up most of the game,” Olentangy coach Pat Schick said. “We use Celona on throw-ins and we aim for Carter Kinniard’s head … and most of the time we win it. (This time) it bounced out to Miller and he buried it.”
The lead didn’t seem safe after the Golden Eagles’ comeback win Wednesday night — a win in which they scored four unanswered goals at Hayes. Big Walnut put pressure on the Olentangy defense early in the second half, but it couldn’t get a shot on net.
“We didn’t execute,” Eagles coach Tyler DeLorenzo said. “We didn’t play well enough to win. It’s OK, there’s no shame in that. Some days that happens.”
Schick had nothing but respect for Big Walnut after the game.
“(Big Walnut) follows their coach very well,” he said. “Their coach is very respectful and very well-known just from the standpoint of his kids do what’s right. They work hard — how can you not have respect for something like that?”
Caleb Gibson had five saves in goal for the Eagles.
Hoffmann credited his defense after the game. He only had to make two saves to preserve the shutout.
“My defense was working for me tonight,” he said. “They were blocking shots and doing what they needed to do. They made my job a lot easier.”
Nick Conway’s goal with 5:11 left in the game ended the suspense.
“It was insurance and that’s what we needed,” Schick said. “With (an opponent) like that, if you can get another goal late, it’s huge because there’s no telling if they’re going to get one in.”
Big Walnut finishes its season 10-7-1 under DeLorenzo, a first-year coach with the school.
“It sucks when the season ends,” he said. “But I think when we look back on it, we’re going to be happy with what we accomplished this season. It’s a terrible feeling (right now).”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.