By John Bombatch
XENIA — Beavercreek knew all about the set plays Columbus St. Charles liked to run, and the underdog no.5-ranked Beavers had practiced against those same set plays all week long in anticipation of Wednesday night’s Division I state semifinal match at Doug Adams Stadium.
Second-ranked St. Charles used a pair of set plays to score any way in a 2-1 win.
The Cardinals (21-0-1) converted the match’s first goal after four consecutive corner kicks. On the fourth one just 2:02 into the match, Ian Smith headed the ball in from the left side, off fellow captain Ryan Huelsman’s corner from the right for a 1-0 St. Charles lead.
Beavercreek tied the contest with 31:18 remaining in the first half when Ryan Bernt got the eventual rebound off Joshua Fleck’s corner kick try from the right. Bernt drove in deep into Cardinal territory, got behind a St. Charles defender and blasted home a quick right-to-left shot into the left corner of the goal.
But almost four minutes into the second half, St. Charles scored on another set play. This time, Huelsman lofted a high inbounds pass in front of the left side of the Beavercreek goal, where 6-foot-4 Charlie Marshall jumped up and headed the ball in. Marshall was facing away from the goal, but headed the ball behind him and in for what turned out to be the winning goal.
“It’s what we’d practiced on for two days,” Beavercreek coach John Guiliano said. “They didn’t run anything that we didn’t know was comin’. We had maybe 5-6 opportunities to score here at the end, but we just didn’t put them on frame. Just didn’t put them on frame. The kids played hard, but we just couldn’t convert.”
The Beavers (19-2-1) had at least six scoring chances in the final 20 or so minutes of the contest. Probably the closest one came when a Cardinal defender whiffed on a kick deep in his own territory with 17:59 left to play. Senior midfielder Nicholas Togliatti stole the ball, drove further into St. Charles territory before passing off to Bernt, whose shot from the right side sailed wide left of the goal and out of bounds.
As the final minute was ticking off the Adams Stadium game clock, Beavercreek got a direct kick opportunity from just inside midfield. But that scoring try sailed high and out of bounds as well and St. Charles let the remaining seconds fall off the clock to seal the win.
“It’s a matter of us being better, when our opponent knows what we’re doing. And that’s what I talked about (after the game),” St. Charles first-year coach Chris Vonau said. “Teams can scout us until their eyes turn blue. It doesn’t matter. Our guys execute their downhill runs toward the goals, and they find ways to rise above their opponents and win.
“Charlie (Marshall) probably couldn’t jump hire than that. He’s been doing it all year long and he’s been successful.”
Vonau said the Beavers played a better match against his team than when St. Charles had won a regular season match, 3-1, back on Sept. 24 in Columbus.
“They game planned really well, and their coaches are really great. I know that they are disappointed right now, but they shouldn’t be. They had a great season, and they’ve been nothing but solid and gracious competitors the entire time,” he said.
Beavercreek has gone to the state finals twice in the school’s history, in 1990 and 2008. This season was the the team’s seventh time where they’d gone to the state semis or deeper. The other six times came in 2014, ‘11, ‘09, ‘08, 1990 and ‘86.
No. 2 St. Charles will now face either top-ranked Cleveland St. Ignatius or no. 8 Medina at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 13 at MAPFRE Stadium, home of the Columbus Crew professional soccer club. St. Ignatius and Medina were tied at 2-all when the St. Charles-Beavercreek game had ended.