Oak Harbor coach Renee Goldstein knew she had a difference maker when she saw freshman Emma Barney play.
“I was like ‘uh oh, I got to up my skills as a coach,'” Goldstein said. “So we started pushing foot skills, juggling, trapping and it makes a difference.
“But Emma has amazing foot skills and she is such a role model for the other girls,”
The Rockets’ super freshman split three defenders before sending a laser shot off her right foot from the upper part of the goal box into the lower left corner from 28 yards out for a two-goal lead in the second half. It was one of two goals scored by Barney. Alexa Weis, another freshman for Goldstein, added a third goal with 4:01 remaining as Oak Harbor topped Continental, 3-0 on Tuesday night in a Division III regional semifinal game played at Ottawa Hills.
The Rockets (18-1-1) — making their first regional appearance after reaching the district finals six times — limited the Pirates (13-3-2) to five total shots for the game and four on goal. Goalkeeper Ivy Martin tallied four saves in the shutout.
Oak Harbor will face Liberty-Benton — a 3-0 winner in penalty kicks over Smithville — at 3 p.m. Saturday at a site to be determined.
“We definitely had a lot of confidence,” said Barney of the team’s mindset entering Tuesday’s game. “We know we can be as good as we want if we put ourselves out there.”
Barney had three shots in the first 40 minutes. Her final of the three got the Rockets on the scoreboard first at the 19:39 mark. Dribbling the ball into the box, Barney fired a ball off her right foot that went right to left and found the lower left corner.
“I usually don’t shoot that far out so I was kind of nervous,” Barney said. “The first one gave me more confidence for the second one.”
Barney, the Sandusky Bay Conference player of the year, has 30-plus goals this season. She’s one of three freshmen, Weis and Mackenzie Auger being the other two, who start up front for the Rockets. Noelle Peterson is a freshman defender and Maddy Rathbun is a freshman who plays defensive midfield.
“It’s been an amazing year for us,” Goldstein said. “The last four games the girls have gone to almost every single 50/50 ball, they’ve dominated possession, moved the ball around the field and depended on one another until the end.”
Despite a marked contrast in first half shots — 11-1 in favor of the Rockets — Continental found itself down a single goal at the half.
“I told the girls at halftime, all we have to do is control the ball and we’ll win,” Goldstein said.
Martin just got a hand on a free kick from Pirates’ star Paige Ordway and knocked it over the net five minutes into the final half. Ordway had another free kick from the 26-yard line, later in the half, go off of Martin’s right post.
Oak Harbor flanked Ordway with three players at all times.
“We knew (Ordway) would be strong up top and we knew which players had the speed,” Goldstein said. “Fortunately for me, the one (Continental) coach played college soccer with my daughter, so I knew she would be very defensive. I also knew what their sweeper would be doing, so I knew to push at least one of my forwards up there because they’d want to clear the ball and chase it to the other end with their speed.”
Weis’ goal from the right side of the box iced the game in the final moments after the Rockets withstood some late Continental runs in crunch time.
“It feels amazing,” said Barney of reaching the regional finals. “I’m glad we could do it for coach, too. She’s been coaching for awhile and never been this far.”