Less than 10 minutes into the Division II state girls soccer championship Friday, Granville already found itself down 2-0.
The Blue Aces recovered and played top-ranked Rocky River tough the rest of the way, but couldn’t get over the hump in a 3-1 loss at Columbus Crew Stadium.
After Grace Bennett scored at 34:30 of the first half and Abby Elinsky followed at 31:13, things could have gotten worse for Granville (19-3-1). But the Blue Aces got back in it and almost tied it before the Pirates (22-0-1) scored a late insurance goal.
“Those two forwards are by far the best two players we’ve seen all year,” Granville coach Scott Forster said. “They were constantly knocking on the door, and it was on the verge of being really ugly. But we showed a lot of grit and character. It was a sinking feeling after the second goal, but we really played them even the last 70 minutes. We were just a touch away, a shot away from tying it.”
“I think we were nervous in the beginning, but we kept fighting back and showed we deserved to be here,” senior midfielder Riley Rosinski said.
Nikki Cox took all four of the Blue Aces’ shots on goal, including one with 15 minutes left in the first half when goalie Sara Connelly came out to meet her. With 9:17 left before halftime, Cox almost turned Allison Brunn’s indirect kick into a goal, but Connelly jumped to just get a piece of Cox’s header and it barely went above the goal.
Cox did strike with 31:13 left in the game, easily scoring on a penalty kick after Taylor Drumm was taken down. That made it 2-1.
The shots on goal didn’t show it — Granville was outshot 10-4 and trailed 8-3 in corner kicks — but the Blue Aces had a couple of chances to tie it.
The ball rolled out in front of the goal early in the second half, but Rosinski couldn’t get to it in time. On another occasion, a Blue Ace player had a good look at the goal, but decided to pass instead.
Bennett finally ended the suspense with 9:32 left when her shot hit the side post, bounced back to her and she scored.
Tori Long had seven saves for Granville and Connelly had three stops for Rocky River, which won its first state title. Neither team had been to this point.
“We were thinking only one thing, that we were going to win this thing,” Cox said. “Since we made it this far, it shows we can do whatever we put our minds to.”
“It was an amazing opportunity, and we worked so hard to get it,” Rosinski said. “We’re where we wanted to be. Next year, maybe they can win the state. It’s just going to get stronger and stronger.”
Forster pointed out Granville went four games farther than it ever had.
“It brings us new hope, and sets a new standard for the Granville program,” he said. “Hopefully, in the coming years, it will carry over into all around Licking County.”