After a two-hour journey to southwest Ohio, Granville played far from its best game Saturday.
But that and a scrappy Hillsboro team couldn’t stop the Blue Aces from making some history at windy Centerville High School.
Played to a first-half scoreless tie by the Indians, Granville finally shook loose in the second half for a convincing 3-0 win and a first Division II regional girls soccer title.
Chloe Kent finally broke the scoring ice early in the second half, and Nikki Cox added two insurance goals as the Blue Aces (18-2-1) advanced to meet Kettering Alter (16-5) in a state semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday at a site to be announced today. Alter ousted previously unbeaten Hamilton Ross 1-0.
“It’s surreal, because we had never done it before,” senior midfielder Gabby Male said. “It’s even better to lead and be a captain, and see the look on their faces when we won.
“After we won the district for the first time was a turning point. We looked at each other and said: ‘We can do this.’ It’s been our goal from the beginning to win the state.”
Granville almost didn’t get out of the regional after a first half that saw them outshoot Hillsboro (16-3-2) only 7-6 and hold just a 3-2 edge in corner kicks. Five minutes in, the Indians just missed a goal when they hit the post, they also had great looks on a direct kick and a diagonal shot with goalkeeper Tori Long out of the net.
In the meantime, Granville missed out on several opportunities, including two straight on shots that went over the goal and another saved at point-blank range by Hillsboro goalie Rachel Sexton.
Coach Scott Forster made a small adjustment by putting another player in the midfield, and it seemed to pay off in controlling the middle.
“We adjusted better to the wind in the second half; it was a strong, diagonal wind and it affected both teams,” Forster said. “We played more like ourselves. In the first half, we were not crisp at all.”
Kent slid a shot past Sexton less than two minutes into the second half, off a deft touch pass from Riley Rosinki, to give the Blue Aces the lead for good. With 21:45 left, Cox found the corner of the net on a direct kick from 22 yards out. She pretty much sewed up the title with 7:04 by stealing the ball and left-footing a shot past a defender and Sexton.
The Indians — outshot 10-3 by Granville in the second half — had opportunities on back-to-back corner kicks and a close-in shot, but Long came up with a great save to preserve the shutout.
“It’s good to know we didn’t play our best, and still got three goals and the win,” Male said.
“To be off like you were and still win 3-0 is a testament to how good of a team you are and the season you’ve had,” Forster told the Blue Aces afterward. “A win is a win at this point, no matter how pretty. Survive and advance.”
Senior defender Kina McCombs said a combination of nerves and having never been this far might have affected Granville’s start.
“But we have such good chemistry,” she said. “Even the juniors have played with us (the 12 seniors) for a long time. I think that makes a big difference.”
After being ranked No. 1 in the state for part of the season, the Blue Aces finally are where they want to be.
“It feels good, seeing them come through and make it happen, meeting their potential,” Forster said.