CARROLL — With a single kick, Aveona Yoder etched her name in West Holmes history.
The junior midfielder fielded a free kick that was sent up the pitch by defender Natalie Rohr to inside the 20-yard line of Marietta. Yoder got control of the bounding ball, dribbled once as Tiger goalie Leigha Laurer came towards her, leaving the goal exposed.
She shot and scored, giving West Holmes a sudden victory at 11:25 of the second overtime to send the Knights to their first-ever state tournament appearance with a 4-3 win over Marietta.
“To be honest, all I saw was an open goal… I was a little scared for a second,” Yoder said. “I just told myself to place it like Coach (Schuyler Snyder) always tells me to. That was amazing, not just for me, but my team, getting us to state, making history.”
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“I’ve been picking on Aveona all year to shoot to the ball, get the ball off her foot,” Snyder said. “You can’t score if you don’t shoot. She did it when it mattered most. I guess I got to stop picking on her.”
Yoder’s goal gave West Holmes the Div. II regional championship and advanced the Knights to the state tournament Tuesday against Cincinnati Country Day at a neutral site to be determined.
Yoder was the fourth different player to score for the Knights, who came from behind all day.
Marietta, which played in the state semifinals last season, scored first on a goal by Caroline Cortopassi at 15:43 of the first half.
West Holmes’ freshman phenom Charli Murphy scored the equalizer with an assist from Allie McMillen with 3:47 to play in the first half.
Alyssa Baker headed home a corner kick from Grace Spencer in the second minute of the second half to regain the lead for the Tigers.
Nearly 16 minutes later, McMillen launched a direct kick on goal that Laurer batted away, right to a waiting Avery Arnold who knocked home the rebound to tie the game at 2-2.
Less than three minutes later, Spencer knocked a direct kick just over the outstretched arms of West Holmes goalie Brianna Parks to give Marietta a 3-2 advantage.
McMillen answered for West Holmes, finishing off a corner kick with 8:51 remaining in regulation.
The West Holmes defense fended off a pair of corner kicks by the Tigers in the final few minutes and the game went to overtime deadlocked at 3-3.
The first overtime was scoreless, though both teams had their opportunities. And the Knights managed to come up with the winner in the fourth minute of the second overtime.
“I think we came out a little more defensive minded than we should’ve been,” Snyder said. “We were playing a little bit more conservative than I would’ve liked. We needed more of an attacking mindset, and once we got that going, they kept coming.
“We were down all day,” she continued. “The kids did the work. They could have easily been done and let their season go, but they did the work and they came back.”
Snyder liked the way the girls answered each time they were down.
“They capitalized when they needed to,” the coach said. “I would have liked to see them score right away after a goal, but I respect their patience. I didn’t want to see it go to double-overtime, but their patience paid off.”
West Holmes held a 21-11 edge in shots on goal, while Marietta had a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks. Parks snared five shots in goal for the winners, while Laurer recorded 12 keeper saves for the Tigers.
“This feels incredible. I’m speechless,” Snyder said. “We’ve worked since May, June for this. The kids have been in the gym at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., and in the evenings, and as soon as school started they were in the gym training. We were training like we wanted to go to state, and here we are.
“The girls were pretty bitter about losing that district final last year 1-0,” Snyder continued. “They got that title back and then once they met that one goal, there was another to follow. They wanted to be regional champions and here they are. They earned it.
“Our six seniors have been playing together for four years. We’ve got three of the six who play club together,” Snyder added. “These kids are training together all the time. It just shows me how much they want it. Soccer for these kids is a lifestyle. They’re friends on and off the field, and that is key.”
“We put so much work in, going to Crossfit every day during the summer,” Yoder said. “This means a lot because we’ve been working on it for years.”
“This is unbelievable,” Murphy said. “People thought we could go far, but they didn’t think we’d go this far. I think it’s amazing. We put in the work and deserve it. It was our goal to make it to state, and we achieved it.”
“Man, there is no feeling like this, honestly,” McMillen added. “Crossfit at 6 a.m. every day this summer. We’ve done a lot of team bonding exercises. We’ve worked really hard, and accomplishing this, there’s nothing like it. We’re the first team in school history to have done this. It’s an amazing feeling.”
McMillen remembered winning a grand total of five games her freshman season, noting how far they have come since then. The win over Marietta improved the Knights record to 19-3 on the season.
The senior captain pointed out that the balance West Holmes has makes them more of a threat, a fact that was reflected by four different players scoring in their biggest game of the year.
“That’s what is different about this year. It’s not just one person scoring,” she said. “That’s what makes us so hard to defend.”
Marietta co-coach Bill Mannix tipped his hat to West Holmes.
“I think both teams gave it all they had,” Mannix said. “Toward the end of game, half the girls were out of gas. It was a bang-bang play to win the game.”
Marietta finished up 15-5-1.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Girls Soccer: West Holmes state-bound with win over Marietta