By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CLAYTON — With a handful of games left in the regular season, the Milton-Union girls soccer team sat in a precarious position, hovering around the .500 mark.
And even though the fourth-seeded Bulldogs’ season came to an end in the Division II district semifinal round in a 6-0 loss to second-seeded and undefeated Anna, it’s difficult to characterize the season as a success given everything it faced all year and the way it finished in spite of all that.
“I am extremely proud of this group,” Milton-Union coach Andy Grudich said. “Our keeper got hurt in our first scrimmage and missed the first half of the season, so I had to play one of my field players in the goal. We were at a little bit of a crossroads about three-quarters of the way through the season at 6-4-2 with undefeated Dayton Christian coming up, Butler, which was 8-2-2 at the time, and Madison, who was 9-4 at the time. We had some really tough games ahead of us, and we just really came together, the girls just kept working and we rattled off five wins in a row.”
Those five straight wins, including a 3-0 win over Urbana in their tournament opener on Oct. 17, helped the Bulldogs finish the year at 11-5-2. Oddly, Milton-Union, which had reached the district final in D-III the past two seasons, found itself taking on Anna (16-0-1), which had also been a D-III district finalist the past two seasons, only this time with both as members of D-II.
The Rockets advanced to Thursday’s district final to take on Alter, a 4-0 winner over Chaminade Julienne on Monday.
“They were really good,” Grudich said. “I was impressed with how well they moved the ball. Just athletically, they’re strong and fast, but they also moved the ball well. I was impressed with how they played. They played well and deserved to win.”
And while the Bulldogs defense was under fire practically from the beginning, senior keeper Izzy Morter and the rest of the defenders did what they could to keep the Rockets from taking control on the scoreboard. Ten minutes in, Anna finally got a shot past Morter — only to have Ellie Cooper clear it off the goal line on the back side before it could go in.
“We showed a few flashes here and there, but they controlled the match today,” Grudich said. “We were on our heels a lot and defending more than we probably should have been, but we just couldn’t get out of our own half enough to put a little bit of pressure on them.”
And eventually, Anna finally broke through.
With 26:53 left in the first half, Taylor Noll took a cross from the left side directly in front of Milton-Union’s goal, settled the ball and fired it in to put Anna up 1-0. Shortly after that at the 22:58 mark, Noll dished to an open Taylor Kauffmann in front, and Kauffmann cut across the box to open herself up and score to make it a two-goal game. And 52 seconds after that at 22:06, Laney Reiss tacked on another quick goal to make the score 3-0 Rockets.
Following that, Milton-Union pushed into Anna’s defensive end for the first time and fired off its first shot, with Morgan Grudich hitting a 25-yarder wide right. The Rockets responded quickly, though, with Reiss driving in a 30-yarder in transition to make the score 4-0 with 16:05 left in the half. And with 12:21 on the clock, Kauffmann and Noll worked a two-on-the-goalie break to perfection, with Noll dishing to Kauffmann for the score to make it 5-0.
Milton-Union’s Lizzie Oaks then took a shot that was deflected out to give the Bulldogs a chance at a corner kick — but Anna not only cleared the ball but turned it into another transition score, with Reiss finishing on the break to give Anna a 6-0 lead with 10:46 left until halftime — and that was where the score remained the rest of the way.
“They have excellent speed up top,” Grudich said. “(Tanner) Spangler and (Taylor) Noll are fast and skilled up top, and that’s why they’ve both scored a whole bunch of goals this year, because they can transition quickly, and they’re skilled. They’re good one on one. Not only are they fast, but they can take you on one on one and get a shot off.”
Still, to Grudich, the final game was not indicative of how his Bulldogs finished the season.
“From where we were in late September to where we ended up, I was really proud of the girls just for hanging in there,” Grudich said. “Because we had a lot of adversity — we had injuries, sicknesses, and it just seemed like at every turn, we were dealing with something. And the girls kept a good attitude and just kept working, and we went on a nice run.”
OAKWOOD — The top-seeded Tippecanoe Red Devils took care of business in the Division II district semifinal round Monday at Oakwood High School, shutting out No. 8 Northwestern 4-0 to advance to Thursday’s district final.
Tippecanoe (10-4-4) will face a familiar rival in Indian Hill Thursday at Lebanon High School in the district final — the Braves have ended the Red Devils’ season in the tournament two years in a row, including in the regional final in 2017.
• Division III
Wins in PKs
EATON — It was the only fitting way to decide the rivalry between Troy Christian and Dayton Christian this season.
The sixth-seeded Eagles and fourth-seeded Warriors ended up sharing the Metro Buckeye Conference championship after tying against each other 2-2 back on Sept. 12. And with the score tied through regulation and a pair of overtime periods in Monday’s Division III district semifinal matchup at Eaton High School, the game went to penalty kicks to decide a winner — and Troy Christian came out on top 3-1 to advance to the district final.
Troy Christian (14-2-2), which won its 10th straight, will face Mariemont in the district final Thursday at Edgewood High School.
BEAVERCREEK — The season came to an end for the ninth-seeded Bethel girls soccer team in the Division III district semifinal round Monday at Beavercreek High School as the ninth-seeded Bees fought valiantly but could not get over the hump in a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Waynesville.
Waynesville advances to the district final Thursday at Monroe High School to take on Madeira. Bethel finished the season 11-6.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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