MILLBURY – Liberty-Benton took the “grudge match” over Archbold Saturday as this was the third straight year the two squads met for a berth to the state’s final four in girls soccer. Playing at the same site as the previous two years, Lake High School, the Eagles scored two first half goals and held off a late Blue Streak charge for a 2-1 win in a Division III regional final.
“Archbold and Liberty-Benton games are always very, very close. This was no different,” said Liberty-Benton coach Mark Pagano. “We knew that they were very tough defensively especially. We knew, boy, when we got our second goal I was feeling pretty good. But, we knew they still had to fight. And we still had to fight. They got one and that’s the way it was.”
“We knew it would be tough today,” stated Archbold assistant coach Jennifer Kidder. “We dominated like 25 minutes of that first half, and then just a crazy breakdown. Those two goals happened. We went in (at halftime) and we kind of regrouped. Started out a little bit rough in the second half but then came back. We really had our opportunities again. But unfortunately it didn’t go our way today.”
To Kidder’s point, the Blue Streaks had multiple chances in the first 20 minutes of half number one.
Leah McQuade had a pair of shots in a row turned away near the 26:30 mark, the first swatted away by the Eagles’ goalkeeper while a defenseman flew in to reject the second attempt.
Kalyn Baker of Archbold put one on net from 28 yards out with just under 22 minutes left in the half, but it was reeled in by the keeper.
In the latter portion of the half the Eagle offense got going. With 10:41 left Maya Rickle got behind the Archbold defense on the right side, burying it in the left corner of the net past keeper Reagan Kohler.
Then, only 49 seconds later, a defensive breakdown by the Streaks allowed Olivia Bodie to put one in, pushing the Eagle lead to 2-0.
The Streaks did get some momentum back after halftime. NWOAL Player of the Year and one of only two Archbold seniors, Chloe Nofziger, drilled one from roughly 20 yards out that deflected off the L-B keeper and in, cutting the margin to 2-1 with 26:58 to play.
“Chloe doesn’t have a lot of numbers attached to her name, but she builds up so much in the middle and pushes it all forward. For her to get that goal today it was huge. And to get our team back in the game. I think just mentally they needed that to keep playing tough again,” said Kidder.
The L-B defense would stiffen from there, allowing them to hold on for the win.
Archbold – who finishes the season with a 16-2-3 record – will return most of its team next year minus Nofziger and Madison Gigax. Nevertheless, it’s always tough to say goodbye.
“We’re only losing two seniors. But we’re losing two huge seniors that have done a tremendous amount for this program from the very beginning,” explained Kidder. “Both starters as they came in as freshmen. There’s big shoes to fill. But with that said, we’ve got a ton of talent on the team – on the bench. And a class of like 11 coming in. It’s exciting to see. It’s hard to walk away today. But it’s exciting to see the future.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010