There’s no need for rah-rah speeches or fiery pre-game pep talks for the West Liberty-Salem Tigers girls soccer team on Tuesday.
The Tigers know what they’re up against in the Division III regional semifinals 7 p.m. at Beavercreek High School. West Liberty-Salem (17-2-0) makes the program’s first regional appearance against Cincinnati Summit Country Day (18-1-0), a program that’s lived at the regional and state level in recent seasons.
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“This is basically our state championship game as far as we’re concerned,” West Liberty-Salem coach Andy Cotrell said. “If we can get past this round we’ve got a good shot. We just have to play our (championship) game three spots ahead of what we normally would do.”
Summit Country Day has qualified for the state tournament four of the past six seasons, including D-III state championships in 2011 and 2015. Many consider the Knights a good bet to return this season as the No. 1 ranked team in the final Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association state poll. West Liberty-Salem is ranked No. 8
The Tigers have reached the regional semis with outstanding defense, outscoring opponents 98-8. Two of those goals allowed came in the district final when West Liberty-Salem outlasted Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy 3-2.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
The Tigers trailed 2-1 with 30 minutes remaining, but rallied for the first district soccer title in school history. Gabby Hollar, a West Virginia University recruit, netted a pair of goals and Laine Godwin added another in the win. Ally Smith had a pair of assists.
West Liberty-Salem will need more of the same against Summit Country Day.
“Everybody has stepped up their game over the last couple weeks,” Cotrell said. “I’m looking forward to them taking it a step further Tuesday.”
Hollar leads the Tigers with 34 goals and 13 assists. Grace Estes has 12 goals as 16 different players have scored for the Tigers this season. Taylor Lauck has nine assists and Smith has eight.
Summit Country Day has outscored opponents 108-11 with 11 shutouts. SCD reached the regional semis with a 7-1 victory over Catholic Central.
Ravin Alexander leads the Knights with 37 goals and Colleen McIlvenna has 15. Maddie Brault (15), McIlvenna (14) and Grace Kaegi (13) are the team leaders in assists.
“I have a good senior group who is really looking forward to this challenge,” Cotrell said. “I don’t have to say a lot. They’re already prepared and ready to go. They’ve been waiting for this all season and they’re excited to see how good we really are. This is the best chance we have to see that. I think the girls are ready to rock.”
While West Liberty-Salem has never gone this far in the high school soccer tournament, Cotrell has. He led Graham to a regional tournament appearance in his four seasons. Prior to his arrival at West Liberty-Salem in 2009, the Tigers had never experienced a winning season.
“This is one of our goals at the beginning of the season,” Cotrell said. “I didn’t expect it with the Graham team that I had. We were barely .500 and caught fire at the end of the season. With West Liberty we expected this from the get go. We’ve been to the district finals the last couple years and haven’t gotten over that hump. This year we made it happen. Coming into the season this was one of our expectations. Our expectation is to make it to state. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we’re on the right track.”