The 2017 OHSAA Girls Division I Soccer Final championship game between the Loveland Tigers and the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets photographed Friday, November 10, 2017 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Loveland Tigers won the match 1-0.
Once the ball rolled out of play for a goalkick and it was certain Perrysburg wouldn’t have another chance, the entire Loveland supporters section bounced in glee. Seconds later, the final whistle blew and the Tigers won their first state title in school history. Loveland beat Perrysburg 1-0 Nov. 10 at MAPFRE Stadium in the Division I state championship game. The match marked the second time the program had advanced to the finals in the past three seasons.
Head coach Todd Kelly, who’s coached the team for 22 years, stood in awe as his team lineup up to receive their championship medals. As the Perrysburg players received theirs, Kelly walked down the line and hugged every one of his players. At the end of the line was a sign that said in all caps, “THE MISSION IS COMPLETE.” It was.
Kelly said he was nervous the entire game, not just in hopes of winning a title, but of preventing another heartbreaking loss in the biggest game. In 2015, the Tigers lost 1-0 to Walsh Jesuit in the final. Kelly said he thought about that night multiple times before his team won Friday. He wasn’t alone. Senior goalkeeper Lauren Parker had similar sentiments. Parker was the most ecstatic of her teammates when the game ended, running around on the sideline, and at one point, dropping to her back with her hands on her head. She said she’s thought about that 2015 loss “every single day.”
A much more defensive match than the first two state championship games earlier Friday, the pairing between Loveland and Perrysburg saw two even sides jostle for an advantage. The Tigers found early chances, but the Yellow Jackets went on to control much of the possession in the first half. Loveland took the lead in the 20th minute, though, when junior midfielder Brooke Harden, a Xavier University-commit, slithered through three defenders and saw her 27-yard shot knuckle into the net. Loveland played defensively for the rest of the half to keep its lead.
Yet by Friday night, the Tigers were used to the nerviness of tight, single elimination matches. Including the win over Perrysburg, Loveland’s last four games were one-goal games. The two previous wins were in overtime. Over time, Perrysburg’s frustration grew as it was unable to breakdown the Loveland backline. As the final whistle loomed, it was the Tigers who seemed to grow in confidence and create more chances offensively. The Yellow Jackets’ best chance came in the 69th minute when Julia DeMarco dribbled past the Tiger defense but her open shot from 18 yards out went directly into the arms of Parker.
But late in the match, Loveland senior midfielder Colleen Swift began to toy with the opponents, waltzing between players with the ball and setting up teammates to have more space elsewhere on the field. Loveland, which finished 22-1, was the third program from Greater Cincinnati to win a state championship at MAPFRE Stadium on Friday night. Summit beat Kirtland 4-0 in a noon kickoff, while Indian Hill won its first championship in a 2-0 win over Lake Catholic in a 3:30 p.m. start. Friday was the first time in history that Division I, II and III teams from one region won the state title, according to Ohio High School Athletics Association records.