MARYSVILLE — Yellow Springs put on a display to show it belonged on the field with the defending Division III state champions.
Through two overtime periods the Bulldogs played with Grandview Heights, but a golden goal with 9:45 remaining brought a sudden end to its remarkable run as the Bobcats advanced to the state championship game with a 2-1 win at Marysville IMPACT Stadium.
Off a throw-in from near its own sideline, Grandview Heights moved the ball to the other side of the pitch quickly to catch the Yellow Springs backline on its heels. Leo Marcellana found himself one-on-one with Krishan Miller charging out from his net, and was able to get a targeted rolling ball past him as everyone on the pitch was left to watch the ball trickle its way across the goalline.
“We just had a quick instance of falling asleep,” head coach Ben VanAusdal said. “That’s why soccer can be a harsh game. … Grandview Heights has been here many times and they know how to win a situation like this.”
Both sides battled for the more than 100 minutes played on the pitch with defensive play ruling the night.
Chances were limited with possession and quick hitters the go-to plays, but as legs tired and both sides appeared to start dealing with cramping issues, the goals quickly came.
Yellow Springs (20-2-2) could begin to gather thoughts of an upcoming celebration with 6:03 remaining in regulation as they broke the scoreless deadlock. Eli Eyrich dribbled upfield and set up a near pefect through pass for the sprinting Dylon Mapes. A calm touch shot on the ball was sent by the outstretched keeper for the Bobcats and sent his Bulldogs teammates on the sideline into jubilation and the lead.
Grandview Heights just two minutes later showed its championship pedigree as it was awarded a corner kick left of the net. The ball was headed upward in front of the net and in a mass of players came down to Blake Yates who equalized the match with 3:38 remaining and eventually sent the game into extra time with Bulldog players needing to quickly gather themselves.
“My seniors knew this was their last year,” VanAusdal said about the recovery of his players after allowing the tying goal. “They didn’t want to lose.”
As overtime got underway, both sides traded early shot attempts, but it was Yellow Springs getting the only shot on goal when Eyrich tried to beat the goalie to his left, but a diving save continued the match.
The second overtime began with another Eyrich shot in the opening minute off a free kick that found the keeper’s gloves. The final chance for Yellow Springs came from Eyrich charging ahead to try and beat the goalie to a loose ball, but he booted it back down field which set up the winning score for Grandview Heights.
“For my boys, it’s been a long time coming that they got here and I’m really proud of them,” VanAusdal said.
The Bobcats got the best of the chances in the early run of play with crisp passes to cut through the Bulldogs backline. Several shots heading over the net didn’t give much work for Miller, but he did have to corral one weakly hit ball on net from above the 18-yard box.
The Bulldogs defense solidified itself and didn’t allow a shot in the final 20 minutes. It let its offense gather itself until nearly scoring the first goal of the match with just over eight minutes to halftime.
Eli Matteson and Mapes combined to flick a throw-in toward the net where Landon Harris got to the ball before the keeper and was able to chip it over his net, but it hit off the post as he threw his hands over his head in disbelief.
Yellow Springs also got the first corner of the match with five minutes remaining in the half, but it was easily cleared away.
“I felt we should have won this game, that we had more opportunities than they did,” VanAusdal said. “We just couldn’t put those couple balls away earlier in the game.”
Eyrich faced constant double and triple teams as the Bobcats focused in on limiting paths for him to run, but just missed an open net and the post on a shot inside the box just eight minutes into the second half.
“I think everybody stepped up and you could tell as soon as he got the ball they had three guys waiting,” VanAusdal said. “Luckily everyone stepped up.”
Eyrich finishes the season with 48 goals, and had his 34th assist on Mapes 34th goal of the season.
The two Grandview Heights goals were the only two allowed by Yellow Springs in postseason play, and ended its stretch of 17-straight matches unbeaten with only three total goals allowed.
The appearance in the state semifinals was the first for Yellow Springs since 1983. With 49 wins in four season, VanAusdal said he doesn’t know when the Bulldogs may have a chance to make it back to this level, but believes his senior class has gone out with heads held high.
“This is something that hopefully the younger kids will see and know how to work in the offseason,” he said. “Who knows, maybe the next group will be in the finals. That can be the goal next time. But other than that, what else can I say but that I’m proud of my seniors who have been on an unbelievable run the last four years.”