By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — Having gone more than 190 minutes without putting a ball in the net, Milton-Union’s girls soccer team knew what it had to do.
“We just had to keep pushing it and taking open shots,” Milton-Union freshman Kristen Dickison said. “I knew if I had an open shot, I had to take it.”
Once the postseason jitters were finally gone, though, it was all over.
Dickison made the most of her chances, scoring two first-half goals — the Bulldogs’ first goals in their last three games — and with that slump finally over, No. 3 Milton-Union dominated from there, defeating No. 11 Brookville 4-0 in the Division III sectional semifinal round Wednesday at Memorial Stadium to advance to Monday’s sectional title game.
“Kristen played really well tonight,” Milton-Union coach Andy Grudich said. “She dominated in the midfield, she distributed balls well and every time you looked, she was winning a ball. Offensively, defensively, she played a complete game. She was the best athlete on the field tonight.”
The Bulldogs (12-4-1) entered the tournament after losing their final two games of the regular season and three of their last six. Those final two losses included a 3-0 loss at home to Waynesville in their chance to pull into a tie for the division lead, and then a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Preble Shawnee in the season finale.
Brookville (5-12), meanwhile, had lost four straight and seven of eight before its 5-1 first-round win over No. 12 Middletown Christian on Monday. The Blue Devils were also beaten by the Bulldogs 8-0 during the regular season back on Sept. 19. And all of those things worked against the Bulldogs early on.
“That game earlier this season against them was just a game in which we played really well, and they didn’t play as well as they normally do,” Grudich said. “We knew that was an aberration. We knew tonight wouldn’t be 8-0 again. And it’s tough, mentally, after you beat a team like that to come back and play them again.
Milton-Union began the game on the attack, firing off four shots on goal within the first four minutes — but each time, Brookville keeper Olivia Stefanoff was up to the task each time. Then with little more than five minutes gone, Taylor Jacobs stole the ball at midfield and passed to Dickison, who hit Danielle McFarland in stride running down the left side. McFarland’s shot went just wide of the near post, though, and the game remained scoreless.
With 31:12 left in the first half, it appeared like the Bulldogs finally broke through as McFarland crossed a ball to Karissa Baird, who headed the ball into the net. But an offsides call wiped the goal off the board, and the game remained scoreless.
Brookville spent the next 10 minutes on the counterattack, creating a couple of solid chances. After the Blue Devils drew a foul just outside the box, Markie Koester fired a 25-yard shot that went just high with 23:30 left until the break. And minutes later, Koester took another shot from about the same place, but Milton keeper Taylor Friedman easily wrapped up the save.
With 10:34 left in the half, though, the Bulldogs finally broke through.
Senior Madison Brandon got free along the right side and drew the keeper out of position, crossing the ball past her and to a wide-open Dickison. The freshman tapped it in unchallenged to put Milton-Union on top.
“I think we were just a little tight early,” Grudich said. “We just needed to relax, get the ball to feet and move it around. Once we got that first one, the girls relaxed and played well.”
And shortly after, Dickison put home her second goal of the game. She took a pass from Morgan Nemeth on the left side and worked her way around a pair of defenders to create room, then she hit a shot at a tough angle that went over the keeper’s head and just inside the far post to make it a two-goal game with 6:38 left in the half. Hallie Berberich had one more shot with 10 seconds left on the clock, but Stefanoff made a diving save, and the Bulldogs went into the break leading 2-0.
And in the second, the Bulldogs wasted no time creating more breathing room.
A mere 33 seconds in, Dickison ripped a shot from the right side that the Brookville keeper dove to get one hand on and deflect away — and right onto the waiting foot of Jacobs, who hammered it in from the left side to make it 3-0 Milton-Union.
Dickison had a few chances at a hat trick, the best one coming on a shot that went less than a foot wide right with 22:25 to play.
But with 6:12 left, Brandon scored a goal of her own, taking a feed from Baird and hammering a shot from 25 yards out into the upper 90 to make it a four-goal game. The Bulldogs kept the pressure on, too, keeping play in the Blue Devils’ end and controlling the ball until time finally ran out.
“We needed this,” Grudich said. “We needed to get the nerves out a bit. We came out with good energy to start the game, we were just a little tight.”
Milton-Union will face the winner between No. 5 Greeneview, a 3-0 winner over No. 6 Bethel, for the sectional championship Monday at Franklin High School.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.