ASHLAND – Lexington and Ontario played to a 3-3 tie in a regular season matchup earlier this season. After another 40 minutes Thursday night in Ashland, it was 0-0.
However, the Minutemen broke through in the second half with three unanswered goals to win the Division II boys soccer district championship 3-0 over the Warriors. It is the second straight year Lexington will go to the regional.
“I think we had a different mindset in this game,” Lexington senior forward Connor Baughman said. “We knew it was for something bigger than a regular season game, and we had to come out and play with a great effort and that’s what we did.”
Lex senior defender Cole Richards agreed.
“The first time we weren’t ready to play them. This time we were ready; we were pumped; we were excited; we wanted this,” Richards said.
Still, with no score through 40 minutes, it was anyone’s match.
“There’s no nerves because we have lots of seniors on this team and lots of experience, so we knew we were still in the game and decided to come out stronger in the second half,” Baughman said.
Ontario had chances, but failed to capitalize. With 6:45 left in the first half, the Warriors missed a chance at an empty-netter, then one minute into the second half, a header from point blank didn’t find the mark.
“We had some things in the first half that we just didn’t capitalize on,” Ontario coach Chris McClenathan said. “At this level, if you don’t capitalize on them, it happens. We’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity we get, and tonight we just didn’t do that. We left a few goals on the field in the first half and kept them in the game.”
Baughman put the first goal on the board with 23:52 left in the second half with a breakaway goal. With 10:27 to go Lex senior Gavin Carns booted one in from the left side, then two minutes later Baughman added a penalty kick.
“We wanted high pressure and move the ball and try to make some things happen, opportunities and keep shooting. Connor broke free a couple of times,” Lex coach Peter Them said.
The defense was outstanding at putting the clamps on Ontario’s high-scoring tandem of senior Erik Klimczynski and senior Jake Hairston, and Them credited Richards and junior Harrison Benedict for the effort.
“Ontario has got two styles. They’ll pass it or they’ll dump and run. They’ve got a lot of speed,” Them said. “We were prepared for the dump and run, and in the first game I don’t think we were prepared for that. We practiced that the last few days to make sure we knew where we were at and to be aware from where the ball was coming in and to slow them down in the middle of the field. I think the boys did a good job tonight.”
In its last two district final appearances, the Minutemen needed to go to overtime in 2011 and 2014 to escape to the regional. Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Sandusky Perkins, they will either face sixth-ranked Bay or Rocky River. Last year, Lex was beaten by Bay 5-0.