LIBERTY TWP – On a warmer than usual November evening at Lakota East High School, the Loveland girls soccer team continued their hot streak through the Division I playoffs with a 4-0 win over Centerville in the regional semifinal.
Though Todd Kelly’s Lady Tigers controlled possession and position in the first half, only one goal found the net when senior captain Courtney Spicer scored with 15:40 left before the popcorn line.
In the second half, the Lady Tigers picked up the aggression and put the pressure on Centerville keeper Kasey Perry.
“I think a lot of it is us just settling in and doing what we do,” Kelly said of the post-halftime surge. “It’s well documented, we’re pretty strong on set pieces. We think it’s a lost art in the game. When we get into our rhythm and are getting throw-ins and getting corners, we think we’ll be successful on most of those.”
Less than five minutes in, sophomore Brice Grieshop scored to make it 2-0, then five minutes later Spicer scored via the head ball to put Loveland up 3-zip.
Seven minutes later, Grieshop scored again and the Loveland fans were able to sit more comfortably in the metal bleachers with a 4-0 advantage.
The lead gave Kelly the luxury of getting some non-starters valuable tournament playing time.
“We had the opportunity to play the whole bench,” he said. “We trust everyone on the bench. We really have faith in all of our players in the program.”
Loveland ended the season with a lull between Sept. 29 and Oct. 13 when they dropped three of four games, including a 1-0 decision to Turpin. They rebounded with a 1-0 tune-up win over DII power Indian Hill and now have reeled off four straight tournament wins against Hamilton, Sycamore, Beavercreek and Centerville.
Loveland goes to 16-3-1 with the victory, while Centerville drops to 12-4-4.
Next up is a Saturday game with Springboro, who knocked off the ECC champion Turpin 1-0 and boasts an 18-1-2 mark.
“They have an enormous amount of talent and they’re well-coached,” Kelly said. “You get to this level, every team is well-coached and has a ton of talent or they wouldn’t be here. Our kids will be ready and the best team will win on Saturday.”