By John Bombatch
XENIA — Bellbrook weathered a second-half Carroll Patriots storm in the second half of Tuesday’s Division II sectional final, then the Golden Eagles turned some freshman speed into some goals for a 3-0 win at Doug Adams Stadium.
“That was hard,” Bellbrook coach Zach Huffman said. “The first half of that second half, we really struggled. Carroll had changed a couple things and we didn’t figure it out for a while. But as we’ve done all season, we fought through it and stuck together. Thankfully, we came out on top.”
After the two teams played to a scoreless tie at the break, second-seeded Carroll (10-4-4) went on the offensive to start the second. But shots tries by Allie Stefanek, Cat McNamara, Tiffany O’Grady and Hannah Truckenmiller were all turned away either by Golden Eagles goalie Bekah Vine or a host of Bellbrook defenders.
Fourth-seeded Bellbrook (13-3-3) seemed to solve Carroll’s offensive changes soon after, and with about 19 minutes left in the match, the Eagles began to go on an offensive of their own.
The scales tipped in Bellbrook’s favor at the 11:20 mark when speedy freshman Sydney Hollingsworth stepped in front of a Carroll goal kick and raced in toward the Patriots goal. Hollingsworth’s shot try was deflected away, but Cassidy Bereda followed up with the rebound from the right side and scored from close range. Bellbrook had the first lead with 11:08 left to play.
The two teams played fairly evenly, until with 3:30 left to play, then Hollingsworth made another steal and was driving in toward the Carroll goal, this time from the right side. A Carroll defender appeared to trip the feisty freshman up, and Bellbrook was awarded with a penalty kick.
Cassidy Hofacker drilled the PK into the upper left portion of the Carroll goal to give the Golden Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Just 32 seconds later, Bellbrook senior Maleah Miracle drove deep into the right side of the Patriots zone, then passed off to Audrey Spirk who drilled a quick score frm off to the left for the match’s final tally.
Hollingsworth and Miracle were both credited with assists.
“I think in the first 5-10 minutes of the second half, we probably had eight shots on goal,” Carroll coach Sarah Flach said. “I thought we came out with some great pressure, but Bellbrook handled that pressure great. Like good teams do, they weathered the storm, battled and took their time, and found a way to win.”
Carroll loses 10 seniors with the loss — Goalkeeper Taylor McCarthy, Meg Hemmert, Andrea Poole, Rileigh Costello, Beth McArdle, Truckenmiller, Nicole McCarthy, O’Grady, Gabi Kreinbrink and Abby McNamara.
“Those 10 seniors will definitely leave a hole in our lineup, but we have a really good freshman class coming up,” Flach said. “We started four freshmen this year, which I’ve never done since I’ve been at Carroll. I wish we could’ve done better this year. But as always, I’ll look forward to getting back at it next year.”
Huffman wanted to make sure that his two seniors — Miracle and Natalie Stein — were recognized for their solid play in Tuesday’s match.
Bellbrook won a sectional title for the first time since 2012, according to Huffman. They will take on either Cincinnati Mariemont or Cincinnati Wyoming in the opening round of district competition. That district match is set for Saturday, Oct. 29 and a time and location yet to be determined.