DUBLIN — By the time a team gets to the district tournament, it expects a battle. By the time it gets to the regional, it expects the toughest game of the season.
The Liberty Patriots received just that, but got a last-minute goal from junior Jared Robinson and grinded out a 2-1 victory over the Worthington Kilbourne Wolves in one Division I Region 3 semifinal Tuesday at Dublin Coffman High School’s Coffman Stadium.
“It feels great to get there,” Robinson said. “We never gave up, even when they got that goal. We fought back and won, and it feels good.”
“I’m not very old, but I’m certainly going to find some gray hairs if this keeps up,” Liberty coach Rick Collins said. “We knew Kilbourne was going to be good. They were a No. 9 seed coming in, but we knew they were better than that. It was a pretty even match.”
Liberty (14-2-3) will face a familiar foe in Dublin Coffman in the Region 3 championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at Dublin Scioto High School. The Patriots and Shamrocks played an August scrimmage and played to a 1-1 tie.
The first ten minutes of the semifinal match went by without much fanfare. Both teams played possession ball, with Liberty getting the better of that score. Still both the Patriots and Wolves (10-4-7) had difficulty getting shots on net.
Liberty had the only two shots on goal of the first half, the first at the 26:07 mark when sophomore Thomas Gullo put a long ball into the 18-yard box to junior Zach Matheny, but Kilbourne sophomore goalkeeper Joey Cipicchio stopped the shot with a sliding save.
In the final minute, senior Alex Ranalli served a ball into to box on the left side to Robinson, but after winning a 50/50 ball, it slipped away and into Cipicchio’s hands with 38 seconds left in the half.
The second half proved to be the more active of the two, and the Patriots didn’t waste time getting on the board.
Liberty put the ball in the Kilbourne end and kept possession. The ball landed on Matheny’s foot, and the junior crossed a ball into the right corner of the six-yard box to junior Kyle Baum, who drilled it past Cipicchio just 3:22 into the second half.
Matheny had a great night, not only getting off shots, but making pin-point passes to teammates for solid scoring chances.
“We like to get our wings involved, and our wings are important to us,” Collins said. “Both Zach and Jared are fast and good on the ball, so we tried to get them behind the defense, which we felt was our strong point tonight, and they both did very well.”
Liberty had another golden opportunity before the 44th minute ended when Cipicchio was caught out of the goal, but junior Sam DeRoy’s shot from the right of the 18 was cleared away by Wolves defender Sam Kennedy.
With under 29 minutes left, Matheny had two more chances on the left side of the 18, but Cipicchio deflected the first shot away for a save, and Matheny’s second chance caromed off the left post.
“We had two good chances right there,” Collins said. “I think if we could have gotten the second one right there, we could have put it away, but we didn’t get it and they came back on us.”
Kilbourne, however, pressured the Patriot defense until, with 12:22 to play in regulation, senior Adam Hren put a ball into the left side of the 18. Junior Charlie Reymann ran the ball down and shot at Liberty keeper Anderson deAndrade, but the ball took a bad hop over the Patriot net minder and into the right side of the net, tying the game.
The Wolves kept the pressure on the Patriot back line, with Reymann getting another shot off with under three minutes left that was deflected by the Liberty defense just left of the goal. The resulting corner kick from Kilbourne junior Austin Tourville was punched away for a save by deAndrade.
But Liberty attacked the Wolves’ end again in the last 90 seconds, and Matheny served a long ball into the middle of the field just beyond the 18. Robinson sprinted to the middle and ran the ball down, then took the ball into the box and shot. The ball deflected off the left post, took a favorable spin and cleared the goal line with 55.3 seconds left.
“Zach and I like to hook up a lot,” Robinson said. “He plays a lot of balls to me, and usually I don’t finish them, but this time I did. I just saw the ball bounce and ran my hardest toward it. It scared me when the ball hit the post, but I’m glad it went in.”
DeAndrade was tested more in the second half than the first, but still earned the win while making three saves.
“Their goal may have been soft, but Anderson came up big for us late in the game,” Collins said. “He made a great save on a ball from about 25 yards out late in the game, and that’s what kept us in it.”
Liberty had 15 shots to Kilbourne’s nine and held a 7-4 edge in shots on goal. Kilbourne held a 5-1 edge in corner kicks.
Cipicchio had four saves for the Wolves, with Hren adding his non-keeper stop.