Walsh Jesuit girls soccer gets revenge, returns to state title game

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by MICHAEL LEONARD | SPORTS EDITOR Sandusky -- During the first half of its state semifinal game, the Walsh Jesuit girls soccer team might have felt like it was watching a sequel to a bad movie. Call it Impenetrable II. The Warriors' game against Toledo St. Ursula was looking like a carbon copy of their 2011 state semifinal contest with the Arrows. Despite a huge edge in possession, Walsh's offense was being stymied. In the second half, however, a moment of brilliance broke the deadlock and sent the Warriors back to the state championship game. A goal from sophomore forward Halle Stelbasky in the 50th minute proved to be difference as Walsh defeated St. Ursula 1-0 in a Division II state semifinal game Nov. 6. The contest took place at Sandusky Perkins High School's Firelands Regional Medical Center Stadium. Walsh was set to play for its sixth state title Nov. 9 in the Division II state championship game at Columbus Crew Stadium. Walsh was set to take on defending Division II state champion Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the title game, as DeSales defeated Cincinnati Indian Hill 1-0 in the other state semifinal Nov. 6. Results from the state title game were not available at press time. Walsh coach Dino McIntrye admitted the Arrows looked better early on. "You have to be ready to play," McIntyre said. "We knew they were going to defend and dump the ball deep. It was working. We didn't look very composed on the ball in the first half. "At halftime, we told them they [the Arrows] wanted it more," McIntyre said. "We needed to pick it up and we did. We pretty much dominated the second half." Arrows coach Chris Black committed his team to playing 2-3-5 formation with the aim of slowing down Walsh's possession game. "We've only let in two goals in the postseason," Black said. "I wouldn't be unhappy if the game went to penalty kicks. If it did, the pressure would have been on them." The first half saw Walsh maintain possession about 80 percent of the time, but the Warriors didn't have any real scoring chances. Walsh's three shots on goal in the first half all came from long distance and were easily handled by Arrows goaltender Sydney Yeager. Yeager finished with eight saves on the night compared to only one from Walsh goaltender Libby Grace. Grace's one save was a big one, however. In the 24th minute, one of St. Ursula's long balls from the back found its way into the box. Arrows forward Jordyn Greer put in a shot on goal from point-blank range, but Grace made a diving stop to save the ball. That turned out to be St. Ursula's only shot on goal, as Walsh finished with a 10-1 advantage. "There were eight defenders all over us in that first half," Stelbasky said. "It was so hard to get anything going." The game was tied 0-0 at halftime and St. Ursula looked comfortable keeping it that way early in the second half. But in the 50th minute, the critical moment arrived for the Warriors. All-Ohio forward Sandra Yu collected the ball on right sideline and sent a hard pass to Stelbasky at the top of the box. "It was not intentional," Yu said. "It was kind of a shank pass." "Halle's first touch was amazing," McIntyre said. "Her second touch was even even more amazing." Stelbasky controlled the ball just inside the penalty box. turned and smashed a volley into the upper left corner of the net. "To hit a bouncing volley like that, boom, with that pace was amazing," McIntrye said. "Those volleys usually end up 40 yards above the goal." It was Stelbasky's 14th goal and Yu's 19th assist of the year. One might think St. Urusula would come out of its shell after the goal, but it was the Warriors who got better after the goal. Walsh nearly doubled its advantage in the 56th minute off a corner kick, but Yu's header was cleared off the line. Walsh's Kennedy Payne and Christina Trickett each had chances on goal in the late going, but Yeager saved. It ended up not mattering, as the Arrows didn't manage a single shot in second half. "It was sweet revenge, I guess," Yu said. "When you get to this level, it's about surviving," McIntyre said. "They found a way to win and that's a credit to them." "It's indescribable," Yu said of earning her second trip to the state final. "To do it with this group of girls, I wouldn't choose anyone else to do it with." E-mail: mleonard@recordpub.com Phone: 330-541-9442

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