MONROE — Party like it’s 1983.
Yellow Springs boys soccer’s defense continued its stellar play during the Division III postseason tournament and it led to the school’s first ever regional championship with a 2-0 victory against Troy Christian on Saturday at Monroe High School.
“I’m so proud of my boys right now,” head coach Ben VanAusdal said. “Being a head coach at this moment is an unbelievable feeling.”
Two goals by Eli Eyrich supported his team’s defensive unit, which continued its shutout streak in the postseason.
Yellow Springs had last reached the regional finals in 2007, and has won district championships in prior years, but not officially attained a regional title since the postseason expanded with the creation of D-III in 2000.
The upcoming appearance in the state semifinals for Yellow Springs will be the school’s first in 39 years.
“I didn’t even know it had been that long,” Krishan Miller said. “I just couldn’t think of a better group of guys to do it with.”
Having already defeated Troy Christian by a 2-1 score during the regular season, Yellow Springs had to overcome more than just a motivated opponent to earn its title.
Winds reached upward of 40 mph with rain drizzling throughout the game. The conditions created havoc for both teams fighting to move around the pitch.
Yellow Springs played into the gusts during the first half and focused on defense, according to VanAusdal, but he knew scoring a goal heading that direction would be massive.
Up stepped Eyrich, one of the leading scorers in the state, who finished off a counter attack by netting a ball at the 18:58 mark of the first half to put the Bulldogs up.
“I knew if we could just survive going against the wind in the first half, we were going to get them,” VanAusdal said.
Eyrich said he felt both teams were negatively affected in the first half from reaching their full potential of form with both having to feel out what the gusts would allow.
“They were trying those long balls and the wind was just taking it,” he said. “Honestly I felt like it was kind of a disadvantage for them.”
The teams nearly went into the break equal when a late penalty kick was awarded for TC. With just over three minutes until halftime, Miller was tasked with maintaining Yellow Springs’ advantage and its scoreless run of play against his side during postseason play.
Diving to his right on the attempt by Aidan Barnishin, Miller punched the ball over the net and earned the accolades of his teammates which rushed in to congratulate him.
“When we played Troy Christian earlier, I had a penalty taken on me by that same kid,” Miller said. “I had dove left that time. Initially I was moving around trying to get my confidence up and intimidate him a bit this time, but at the last minute I decided to go the other way.”
With the wind moving to their back in the second half, the Bulldogs dominated possession and continually put pressure on Troy Christian’s back line as it looked for a second.
It was Eyrich again who corralled a pass near the net and dribbled around the goalkeeper to tap in his 48th goal of the season and put his team up two with 15:16 remaining.
Miller would close out the match with three saves down the stretch to give him seven total in the match to finish off his 16th shutout of the season, leading to jubilation from his sideline pouring onto the field as the final seconds ticked away.
“The team chemistry is what really makes a difference,” Miller said. “It’s more of a family than a team at this point.”
“I’m just speechless,” Eyrich said. “I’m just so glad I can do this with this group as well. Top to bottom, I’m so happy to do this with them and for my family.”
Yellow Springs has outscored its six opponents by a 38-0 margin during its tournament run, and have allowed a total of three goals during its current 17-match unbeaten run.
“Our defense doesn’t get a lot of recognition because they don’t get the goals,” VanAusdal said. “Jason [Knemeyer], Ethan [Knemeyer], Tallis [Onfrey-Curley], Isaac [Grushon], those are some of the guys that have helped shut out our opponents. They make Krishan’s game easier because our defense is so good right now and they’re playing at the top level.”
Yellow Springs will face Columbus Grandview Heights at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the state semifinals at Marysville High School.
Both sides were ranked in the final OSSCA state D-III poll of the regular season, and Grandview Heights will play in state semifinals for the second year in a row and fifth time in the past eight years.
For Yellow Springs, it will be a game 39 years in the making.
“I’ve been getting text message from former plays wishing us luck and I know some of our alumni came down just to watch us this game,” VanAusdal said. “I’m just so excited for my boys. They deserve it.”