Perrysburg players from left Erica Culp, Riley Tilton, Mackenzie Thomas and Lily Yoder react to a 1-0 loss to Loveland in the state championship game at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.
COLUMBUS — On a freezing night in the state capital, a wonder goal decided the Division I girls state championship.
Unfortunately for Perrysburg, it was on the wrong end of the magic.
Brooke Harden’s inch perfect 19th-minute strike was the difference at MAPFRE Stadium as Loveland took a 1-0 lead against Perrysburg and never lost it to capture its first state championship.
Coach Jorge Diaz made deft tactical switches to open the game and slow Loveland’s crafty attack, and No. 7 Perrysburg chased admirably for the next 61 minutes, pressing until the final seconds.
But the coveted equalizer never came.
“We played our hearts out out there,” Perrysburg senior Kristina DeMarco said. “I mean, we got unlucky with that one goal and we couldn’t finish another one. It happens, but to get here is amazing.”
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Second-ranked Loveland (20-1-0) had the lion’s share of possession during the game’s opening stanza, but an organized Perrysburg (16-3-3) back line kept the Tigers from anything meaningful inside the 18-yard box.
But after 18 minutes of pressure, Loveland’s possession finally created chances. A string of connecting passes led to midfielder Jordan Morrison’s attempt from the top of the box, which forced Perrysburg goalkeeper Lily Yoder to tip the shot over the bar with an acrobatic save.
A minute later, the Yellow Jackets weren’t as lucky.
A giveaway near midfield allowed Harden to move into space, and Harden’s beautiful strike from 26 yards sliced away from Yoder and into the goal for a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
“That shot was a tremendous shot. I saw it from over there,” Diaz said, pointing to the bench. “I said, ‘Uh oh, that’s going to be trouble.’ ”
Perrysburg threatened for the first time off a corner kick in the 32nd minute. The pinballing inside the box that resulted appeared to cause a handball on a Loveland defender — which would have resulted in a penalty kick — but there was no call and the teams played on.
Both back lines remained organized through the second half, during which play opened. Still, the two sides combined for only seven shots on target during 80 minutes.
Loveland keyed on DeMarco and Addison Graham, and was able to defend capably after scoring the lone goal.
“We knew if we could score one that we could have a chance as long as we maintained pressure on those two kids,” Loveland coach Todd Kelly said. “Those two kids are outstanding, and they’re well-coached and well-prepared. We’re fortunate to get the one and get out of here with the win.”
Perrysburg’s best chance came on Kristina DeMarco’s run in the 70th minute, but Loveland goalie Lauren Parker saved the attempt with no rebound, and the Yellow Jackets did not attempt another shot on goal.
Although Perrysburg defended well yet again, it wasn’t enough.
“Our back line and our keeper, they did everything they could,” DeMarco said. “That girl had a beautiful shot from half field. There was nothing we could do. I couldn’t ask for them to play better. Throughout the whole season, they were amazing.”
The Yellow Jackets, who won the 2012 state championship, finished one victory short of another title.
The game did not bring the result Perrysburg hoped, but the Yellow Jackets found only positives in defeat.
“I love the way that we fought; I love our girls,” Diaz said. “We got our game going a little bit [when] behind, but unfortunately ended up second. But I’m very proud. It was a tremendous season we had.”
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